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Get In Line: Jobless Wait on Benefit Extensions

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 01, 2010 9:15 AM

As of this week, not only do COBRA benefits subsidies hang in the balance, so do jobless benefits, which are also due to expire soon. According to the Florida Sun Sentinel, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is struggling to find a way to extend unemployment benefits.

The current extension expired as of today.

The Sun Sentinel reports that Reid tried on Wednesday to implement a 30 day stop gap measure to protect benefits and give the Senate time to discuss longer term solutions. To accomplish this quickly, Reid attempted to pass the law under the unanimous consent rule which allows a law to pass without debate or roll call vote. The unanimous consent rule requires, unfortunately, unanimous consent. This was blocked by Senator Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky), who was concerned with the $10 billion price tag and wanted to use stimulus money to pay for it.

Today, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will ask Sen. Bunning to drop his filibuster. If he is not successful, the Senate will have to initiate parliamentary actions to work around Bunning, but which will take time and possibly still cause a loss in benefits for those who count on them. 

If the current benefits are not extended, unemployed workers would continue receiving the basic 26 weeks of benefits and would be able to complete whatever tier of extended benefits they have entered. They will not be able to enter a new tier. The uncertainty surrounding benefits has made providing consistent services to the unemployed very difficult for state agencies. "State agencies are in absolute turmoil right now," July Conti, of the National Employment Law Project, told the Sun Sentinel. "They are trying to keep things running. If there's a lapse, it will be a nightmare."

The House is expected to quickly approve this stopgap measure if it passes the Senate.

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