Bipartisan EUC Extension Appears to Have Votes to Proceed in Senate

An agreement to extend EUC has been worked out by a group of 5 Republican Senators and the Democrat majority in the Senate to provide the 60 votes needed for consideration when the Senate returns from the congressional break.  The agreement was announced late today through a bi-partisan release below. See the legislative draft language attached and the article in Roll Call at

http://www.rollcall.com/news/bipartisan_unemployment_extension_deal_reached-231471-1.html?ET=rollcall:e17344:65345a:&st=email&pos=ebn?pos=ebn

Here’s the full announcement:

WASHINGTON, DC – Seeking to boost the economy and provide relief for the more than 2 million job seeking Americans who have lost emergency unemployment insurance coverage since December 28, 2013, a group of 10 U.S.

Senators led by Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dean Heller (R-NV) today announced an agreement to reauthorize emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for

5 months. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Dick Durbin (D-IL). The plan will allow for retroactive payments to eligible beneficiaries going back to December 28th.

This new legislation seeks to strengthen the U.S. economy while providing vulnerable job seekers and their families with a vital lifeline as they continue to look for work. The proposal is fully paid-for using a combination of offsets that includes extending “pension smoothing” provisions from the 2012 highway bill (MAP-21), which were set to phase out this year, and extending customs user fees through 2024. The bill also includes an additional offset allowing single-employer pension plans to prepay their flat rate premiums to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).

Further, the legislation includes a provision modeled on Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) and Jon Tester’s (D-MT) language that ends unemployment insurance payments to any individual whose adjusted gross income in the preceding year was $1 million or more. According to 2010 income tax data, there were 0.03% of filers that earned over $1 million and received some form of UI at either the state or federal level. This provision received unanimous support in the Senate when it was voted on in 2011.

The legislative proposal also includes language championed by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) to strengthen reemployment and eligibility assessment (REA) and ReEmployment Services (RES) programs. In an effort to help get job seekers back into the workforce, individuals receiving emergency unemployment compensation will be eligible for enhanced, personalized assessments and referrals to reemployment services when they begin their 27th week of UI (Tier I) and 55th week of UI (Tier III).

“There are a lot of good people looking for work and I am pleased we’re finally able to reach a strong, bipartisan consensus to get them some help.

Restoring this much needed economic lifeline will help job seekers, boost our economy, and provide a little certainty to families, businesses, and the markets that Congress is capable of coming together to do the right thing.

It has now been 75 days since UI expired and it needs to be renewed. We’re not at the finish line yet, but this is a bipartisan breakthrough. I am grateful to Senator Heller for his leadership and for my many colleagues on both sides of the aisle who worked constructively to find a way forward. I join Rhode Islanders and millions of people across the country in calling on Congress to pass this essential, common sense legislation without further delay and take additional action to help save and create jobs,” said Senator Jack Reed, noting that about 8,000 Rhode Islanders have lost their UI coverage since the benefits were cutoff on December 28th and more than $20 million worth of unemployment checks have gone undistributed in Rhode Island as a result of UI’s expiration.

“These past few months have been extremely difficult for thousands of Nevadans who have been unsure of how to pay the bills or feed their families. I am so glad that both Democrats and Republicans have come together on a proposal that will finally give Americans certainty about their unemployment benefits. This deal extends these important benefits for five months, pays for them, and brings buy-in from both sides of the aisle.

I am grateful to Senator Reed and to Senators Collins, Portman, Murkowski and Kirk for the determination and hard work involved in order to reach this point,” said Senator Dean Heller. As many as 21,000 Nevadans have lost their unemployment insurance benefits since they were cut off in December.

Now that the bill has been introduced, it must pass a 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster. Reed and Heller expressed confidence that they would have more than enough votes to advance the measure in the U.S. Senate.

-end-


The legislation continues to contain a retroactive provision to December 28th that would make it very difficult if not impossible to properly administer, as claimants have already moved ahead with taking jobs that are available in the economy, retiring, spending more time with their families, and may no longer be in the workforce for a range of reasons. As states have stopped accepting weekly EUC claims there will be confusion about how individuals can show that they were able to work, available to work and actively seeking work each week as a condition of being paid. Some claimants may have qualified for new state UI benefits based on wages they have earned? Some claimants may have changed residences.

In addition, the programming needed to sort out all of the various conditions and relationships with regular UI claims, the different tiers of benefits that may have changed with changing unemployment rates, overpayments, etc. etc. will make this practically impossible to properly bring up before the five month period ends. For many EUC claims, if they are able to show that they continued to be unemployed and are permitted to file claims retroactively the retroactive feature may mean that they receive one large check of $4,000 which exhausts their benefits and then instantly have no additional entitlement.

The proposal also fails to repeal the “non-reduction” provision as a condition of the EUC program, restricting states from taking measures to reduce the average weekly benefit amount in the state in comparison to what the average would have been as of June 2, 2010. A number of states are still struggling to repay federal loans and to build UI trust fund solvency in advance of the next recession.

If the proposal were to pass as introduced a number of states may choose not to accept administration of the EUC program.

UWC will work to raise these administrative concerns with Senators and the House as this proposal is considered in the coming weeks.