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By PBN Staff
By PBN Staff
PROVIDENCE – About 4,900 long-term unemployed Rhode Islanders will lose their federal emergency jobless benefits following the decision by Congress not to include an extension of unemployment benefits in the budget deal approved Dec. 18, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
Beginning Saturday, Dec. 28, the federal program that provided extra benefits to those who have exhausted their 26 weeks of regular unemployment will end, affecting 1.3 million unemployed workers nationwide.
Extending the benefits would have cost $26 billion over two years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, but would also have boosted national economic growth by 0.2 percent and added about 200,000 jobs.
Rhode Island’s Democratic Sen. Jack Reed has been among the staunchest advocates of an extension of unemployment benefits. On Dec. 6, he led a group of 32 senators in urging Congress to preserve federal unemployment insurance for another year.
“Unemployment insurance is a critical lifeline for vulnerable families and our economy,” said Reed in a statement. “Preserving this program will help bolster consumer demand and provide some much needed economic certainty for businesses and families in need. We need to make sure that reauthorizing the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is part of any budget or end of the year legislation that comes before the Senate.”
Following the final approval on Dec. 18 of a congressional budget deal that did not extend emergency benefits Reed joined Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada to propose short-term unemployment insurance legislation that would preserve federal unemployment insurance for three months to give Congress time to develop a comprehensive plan.
A test vote in the Senate on the bill is scheduled for Jan. 6.
Rhode Island’s November unemployment rate of 9 percent tied with Nevada for the highest in the country, significantly above the national rate of 7 percent. According to Reed, the average emergency benefit payout in Rhode Island is about $350 a month.
“I hope this sensible and bipartisan approach will provide a path forward to preserving the program through the entire 2014 calendar year, which will give families and our economy time to recover,” said Reed in a statement about the proposed short-term extension. “This program has been, and continues to be, a crucial benefit to millions of American households all over the country and of nearly every conceivable demographic. That is why it’s such a significant part of keeping this economic recovery going forward.”
Regular unemployment benefits for another 8,900 Rhode Islanders are slated to lapse by June, according to Reed’s office.