Unemployment benefits to be cut without congressional extension - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Unemployment benefits to be cut without congressional extension of program

ALABAMA (WAFF) - The U.S. Department of Labor today released state-by-state figures on the number of individuals who will lose their unemployment benefits in the coming days if Congress fails to extend unemployment insurance benefits.

If Emergency Unemployment Compensation and full federal funding for the Extended Benefit program are not extended, 400,000 Americans will lose unemployment benefits during the first weeks in March with 3,600 in Alabama.

By May, nearly 3 million people could be left without these benefits. Furthermore, if the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act subsidy under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is not extended, thousands of families will lose access to affordable health care. If the extension is not approved, an estimated 500,000 workers who lose their jobs will be ineligible for subsidies to cover the cost of health care over this month.

Over the rest of 2010, an estimated 5 million workers will be ineligible for the Recovery Act COBRA subsidy that covers 65 percent of the cost of coverage. Without this assistance, many of these families will be forced to join the ranks of the uninsured.

"It is essential that Congress extend the unemployment insurance and COBRA subsidy programs that are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "The consequences of partisan obstructionism could not be clearer. If the extension is not approved immediately, millions of Americans could lose the safety net programs they deserve and desperately need."

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to temporarily extend crucial benefits — including unemployment insurance. In the Senate chamber, however, Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky is blocking the extension.

Senate leadership has called for the Senate to unanimously move this package on multiple occasions, but Sen. Bunning has blocked the process each time. Without an extension, the number of Americans who lose unemployment insurance benefits will increase to 1.5 million within a month. Within two months, nearly 3 million Americans will have lost their benefits.

Even if Congress acts down the road to retroactively reinstate UI benefits, a gap in the program forces administrative burdens onto states, which may cause significant delays in getting checks to unemployed individuals.

©2010 WAFF. All rights reserved. U.S. Department of Labor Press Release.

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