Senate Says Happy Memorial Day by Taking a Vacation without Extending Unemployment Benefits

By Seth Freed Wessler May 28, 2010

As many as 200,000 people may lose their unemployment insurance benefits in early June, because the Senate has once again failed to extend the program. Senate Democrats announced on Thursday that they were once again unable to pass an extension of the jobless benefits. Despite a late effort to pare down the extension package, which also included a number of tax provisions, a similar extension of COBRA health insurance for the unemployed, and Temporary Aid for Needy Families funds, Senate Republicans continued to refuse to vote to pass the desperately needed bill. The current extension of jobless benefits, which was passed last month, expires next week. The failed measure would have extended the program through the end of the year. This is the third month in a row that Americans have been threatened with a loss of the support as a result of partisan bickering over the appropriate way to pay for extended unemployment benefits. Democrats want to cover the program with new funds while Republicans refuse to support an extension unless it’s paid for out of existing federal Stimulus money. Roll Call Reports:

Although Democrats are expected to attempt to pass a 14-day extension of unemployment insurance by unanimous consent, one senior Senate Democratic aide said Reid expects Republicans to object, because it is not offset with spending reductions elsewhere. Republicans are also expected to seek consent to pass a paid-for continuation of unemployment benefits, but Democrats will likely object because the offsets take money from job creation funds, the aide added. Democrats said they do not believe they will have enough Members willing to stay in town for any Saturday or Sunday votes to break the impasse. Sixty votes are needed to beat back an attempted filibuster.

The Economic Policy Institute published this graph to show the number of people who will exhaust their benefits if the Senate does not extend the program. Failure to extend the program will mean millions of people will have no income to live on. As I wrote earlier this week, while official unemployment is high for everyone, it’s especially high for people of color. Blacks and Latinos throughout the recession have faced levels of joblessness higher than whites, and now, while nine percent of whites are unemployed, 16.5 percent of Blacks and 12.5 percent of Latinos are without work. For young people of color and those who were already poor before the recession, as well as unmarried women, the rates of joblessness are even higher. Visual design: Hatty Lee People of color are also more likely to be out of work for longer. According to data released to by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while people of color make up about 25% of all unemployed workers, they comprise closer to 30% of workers who have been unemployed for longer than 52 weeks. This means that a failure to extend the unemployment program will have a disproportionate impact on people of color. Last month, when unemployed Americans were facing what they hoped would be the last month they’d have to deal with the fear of losing unemployment benefits, ColorLines went out on the street to talk to people about what a cut-off would mean. Unfortunately, their words are still relevant. Watch the video here: