Senate Reaches Bipartisan Deal on Long-Term Unemployment Benefits

Yesterday, the Senate announced a bill that would extend unemployment benefits for the two million Americans whose benefits lapsed in December, for a period of five months.

Capitol 

(Photo Credit: Glyn Lowe Photoworks/Flickr)

The $10-billion deal will retroactively pay benefits going back to December 28, when the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program expired. 1.3 million Americans lost their benefits immediately on that date, and over 70,000 joined their ranks each week.

The Huffington Post reports that Senate aides are "cautiously optimistic" about the bill's chances of passing the Republican-led House. The bill is backed by a bipartisan slate of ten senators, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

Several iterations of unemployment extension legislation have hit the floor so far this year, with Republicans blocking the bills over cost concerns, something that this bill addresses.

"The cost of the extension, around $10 billion, would be fully offset by an accounting trick known as 'pension smoothing,' an extension of customs user fees through 2024, and an adjustment to payment procedures for single-employer pension plans," writes Sam Stein at The Huffington Post.

Aides to Speaker John Boehner declined to comment on the deal and its chances in the House. In any case, it will be some time before the bill goes before the House, as the package won't be considered in the Senate until late March, after the St. Patrick's Day recess and a vote on aid to the Ukraine.

Among the bill's provisions are improvements to job training programs and the cessation of unemployment aid to millionaires and billionaires.

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