UPDATE 1-U.S. Senate jobless benefits plan poses problems -state agencies

Wed Mar 19, 2014 5:56pm EDT

(Adds comment from Senator Reid's spokesman, paragraphs 4, 8-9)

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON, March 19 (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday a U.S. Senate plan to extend long-term unemployment benefits retroactively "is simply unworkable" after a state officials group warned of implementation problems.

The National Association of State Workforce Agencies said in a letter that some states may find the plan's verification requirements too costly and onerous, and could try to opt out.

The bill's requirements "would cause considerable delays in the implementation of the program and increased administrative issues and costs," NASWA President Mark Henry said in the letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

The Senate is expected to vote in coming weeks on bipartisan legislation to renew the jobless benefits for the first five months of 2014 that would put an average of $300 per week into the hands of long-term unemployed workers. The checks would be retroactive to Dec. 29, 2013.

For Boehner, whose House Republican caucus has shown little interest in the extending unemployment benefits, the letter from the state officials' group bolsters the case for opposing the Senate plan. He said it was "cause for serious concern."

Boehner said Republicans would still look at an unemployment benefits extension bill from Democrats that is "fiscally responsible" and helps to create more private-sector jobs.

"There is no evidence that the bill being rammed through the Senate by Leader Reid meets that test, and according to these state directors, the bill is also simply unworkable," Boehner said in a statement.

Reid's spokesman, Adam Jentleson said Democrats believe that concerns raised by the state officals are "resolvable" and urged Boehner to help craft solutions.

"It is hard to imagine Speaker Boehner simply walking away from the thousands of people in Ohio who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and need this lifeline to make ends meet while they continue to look for work," Jentleson said.

The $10 billion cost of the Senate extension measure would be offset by other savings, including allowing companies to apply accounting procedures for pension contributions that would boost their profit, resulting in increased federal revenue. It also contains a provision that would prohibit payment of unemployment benefits to anyone who has earned income of at least $1 million in the previous year.

Henry, who also serves as director of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, said the state workforce agencies were not taking a position for or against the extended benefits but were pointing out difficulties in the proposed legislation, including the inability to verify whether beneficiaries met requirements that they sought work during the first few months of 2014.

Under normal circumstances, beneficiaries report weekly on their job search activities, but this has stopped in many states since the checks stopped flowing in January.

Antiquated computers that cannot be quickly reprogrammed represent a challenge and the "millionaire provision" is problematic because it is based on income tax return data, which unemployment agencies do not collect, Henry said.

Determining eligibility under this means-testing provision would cost states money and the proposed legislation provides no federal funds for this. (Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Matthew Lewis and David Gregorio)

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Comments (2)
hellhound55 wrote:
Boehner is just looking for excuses to shoot down the bill again. What a crock of BS. These republicans have made it clear that they are not interested in helping people no matter what is in the bill. They have repeatedly stalled the issue for no good reason. Why is it so difficult for them to step up and do the right thing? There are millions of people struggling and more each week that are losing benefits because it takes much more than 6 months to actually find a job. They are either blind to this fact or simply don’t care. Never have I seen a lack of compassion for fellow citizens in distress as with this group of people in congress. This is a complete disgrace and ALL of these heartless bastards will pay the price in November.

Mar 20, 2014 8:57pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
yinatanc wrote:
I can’t believe that we’re in the month of March now, and we (the more than two million unemployed workers) are still WITHOUT BENEFITS, and that we must wait SEVERAL MORE WEEKS for another decision to be made on the unemployment extension bill in the senate. Really senators? Since last December we have been without benefits to support ourselves and our families. We have faced eviction. foreclosures, bankruptcy, and homelessness. All of this, while you and your families have been on break and vacations, living your privileged lifestyles. We are not asking for something that is not due us. We have worked most of our lives and contributed to unemployment and to society as a whole. We are not “Lazy”, or “Unwilling” to work as you often suggest in the press and on TV. Remember, that it was our tax dollars that Bailed out the greedy bankers and Airline industry a while back. Why was it not difficult for the CEO’s of these companies to get help? How was it in the budget to bail Them out? What about our tax payer dollars being spent on “Corporate Welfare”, and Foreign Aid? Why don’t you tell them to wait several more weeks until you decide to help them? Tell me when did you stop being a “Public Servant”, and started to be a selfish, self-centered, self-promoting, ego inflated, bureaucrat, without a soul? These families are hurting and struggling while you continue playing your party politics. These two million plus people are angry, and will not forget the pain you’ve put their families through, and in the next election in 2016 will VOTE YOU OUT OF OFFICE.

Mar 20, 2014 9:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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