WASHINGTON, April 7 – The Senate tonight voted 59-38 to renew benefits for the long-term unemployed.
The bill would restore assistance for more than 2.7 million jobless workers, including about 1,832 Vermonters, who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks and had their benefits cut off late last year.
“From both a moral and economic perspective, we have got to do everything that we can to help long-term unemployed Americans find decent-paying jobs. Americans desperately need these benefits to feed their families, pay their rent and fill their gas tanks as they continue to look for work,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
The legislation would reinstate benefits of about $300 a week on average. The five-month extension would be retroactive to last Dec. 28. The bill now goes to the Republican-controlled House, where Speaker John Boehner has not agreed to bring it up.
“After a long struggle here in the Senate, we managed to get a few Republicans on board to help us pass this legislation. Now, it goes to the House. After pushing for tax breaks for billionaires and large corporations, it would be unconscionable for the Republican House not to pass this legislation,” Sanders said. “If the House does not act, 5,100 unemployed Vermonters will be left out in the cold by the end of this year. That would be an outrage.”
Nationwide, more than 4.9 million Americans will lose benefits this year if Congress fails to act.
Republicans haven’t always opposed the program. When George W. Bush was president, Boehner and other Republicans voted five times to extend emergency unemployment benefits. In fact, since 1958, Congress has never failed to pass emergency unemployment benefits when long-term unemployment has been as high as it is today.
While the official 3.7 percent unemployment rate in Vermont is among the lowest of any state, the lingering recession has left thousands of Vermonters without work. Real unemployment in Vermont – counting those forced to settle for part-time jobs and those who have given up looking for work – averaged 9.3 percent last year.
While the economy has slowly improved since the recession that began in 2007, there still are nearly three job applicants for every one job opening.
“The fact is that there simply aren’t enough jobs out there for the more than 10 million Americans who are actively seeking work,” Sanders said.