The Federal Unemployment Benefits Extension bill HR 3548 is still being debated in the Senate. Senators have yet to reach a resolution on how to fund the bill. While they debate, thousands of Americans are losing their unemployment benefits each day.
With a national unemployment rate of 9.8 percent, millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to get by. Many of these same Americans having lost their jobs during what is being referred to as the worst economic situation since the Great Depression; but while they wait are relying on the little money they get from unemployment benefits.
According to the Department of Labor, the average unemployment check is $292. The purpose of which is to help unemployed Americans pay essentials while they search for steady employment. With the unemployment rate rising, many Americans that have been on unemployment for months have either exhausted or will exhaust their benefits. The National Employment Law Project estimated that 400,000 Americans exhausted their benefits in September. In addition, some 311,000 are estimated to exhaust their benefits by the end of October, and an additional 1.4 million by year’s end.
H.R. 3548 is a bill that was introduced in the United States House September 10, 2009. If passed, the bill would provide an extension to the millions of Americans that will have exhausted their benefits by year’s end, if they haven’t already. The House, acting with swift urgency, voted and passed the bill September 22, 2009.
The Senate is now debating the bill, and has been for five weeks. The bill was revised after reaching the Senate floor, and if passed, would provide an additional 14 weeks of unemployment benefits to all states, and an additional 6 weeks to states with unemployment rates above 8.5%.
Democrats and Republics both have made statements that this bill is essential and needs to be passed. Many Democratic Senators purpose that the extension be paid for by extending the Federal Unemployment Tax through June 2011, while many Republican Senators say the plan should be funded with portions of unspent stimulus money.
As the funding debate of H.R. 3548 lingers on, it’s estimated that some 7,000 Americans lose their benefits all around the country each day. They’re left without a lifeline and no current resolution in sight.
Christine Owens, Executive Director of National Employment Law Project stated she’s “devastated and dismayed” by the inaction of the United States Senate. As of yet, no resolution has been reached, and thousands of Americans are left waiting.