Unemployment Extension 2014: Missed Benefits May Never Be Paid, Focus Now On Newly Jobless

The 2014 unemployment extension that was passed by the Senate in early April — but still blocked from coming to the House floor by Republican Speaker John Boehner — would have paid benefits to the long term jobless not only going forward, but also going back to the end of December when Congress failed to vote on the unemployment extension.

The nearly 3 million long term unemployed who were supposed to have received regular benefits during 2014 would receive the payments they missed in a lump sum — if the Senate version of the unemployment extension were, by some miracle, to pass the House.

But a miracle looks increasingly unlikely. The Senate unemployment extension would have run only through the end of May 2014, which means that as of June 1, backers of an extension must go back to square one.

New Unemployment Extension May Apply Only To Future Benefits

The chief advocates of the 2014 unemployment extension — Democratic Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed and Republican Nevada Senator Dean Heller — have said they will do just that, looking to craft a new bill. But a new unemployment extension may not include the lump sum payment for missed benefits, which would likely be gone forever, Reed said Wednesday.

“We also have to think, because we are running to the end of our five months, whether it is all retrospective, do you reconfigure it to prospective, or do you try to adopt a whole year and even do both,” Reed said to the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call.

The “prospective” option means that a new 2014 unemployment extension would apply only to the newly unemployed, and those who still would have benefits remaining had the extension passed in December.

Unemployment Extension Could Be Linked To Highway Bill

Reed has not given up on passing the current version of the Senate unemployment extension. While he is still attempting to attach the bill to an $85 billion package of corporate tax cuts, that prospect appears increasingly bleak. But Reed is also eyeing an upcoming transportation bill as possible legislation to which the 2014 unemployment extension, which would include retroactive benefits, could be attached.

The transportation bill is considered a “must pass,” because without it the country runs out of funds to maintain interstate highways.

Statistics Show Long-Term Unemployed Giving Up On Job Market

While Boehner and Republicans argue that an unemployment extension causes the long term jobless to become lackadaisical in their search for work, and that the cutoff of benefits has pushed the long term unemployed back into the job market, evidence shows the opposite — cutting off unemployment benefits has caused huge numbers of the long term jobless to give up on looking for work altogether.

A recent survey found that 47 percent of unemployed Americans were no longer actively pursuing a new job, since the failure of the unemployment extension in December.

While the economy overall has improved for those who do have jobs, for the long term unemployed it is not significantly better in 2014 than it was in 2010. While recently unemployed Americans have about a 25 percent chance of getting hired for a new job, of those unemployed for more than six months, only about one in 10 are being hired — about the same rate as four years ago when the recession was at its worst.

Advocates of the 2014 unemployment extension say that those statistics support the call for providing economic relief to the long-term unemployed, who could become a drag on the economy as they go months and even years with little if any income to spend.

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