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Unemployment Benefits Extension May Be Restored Soon

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Senate Democrats are closing in on an agreement to pay for an 11-month extension of unemployment benefits with spending cuts that would not go into effect for at least a decade, sources tell me. This would probably be acceptable to liberals, because it would sustain a lifeline for the jobless right now, while pushing off any damage the “pay for” would do deep into the future.

The deal would cost $17 billion or $18 billion, sources say, and would extend unemployment benefits through November 15th, and would be retroactive to December — making this nearly a year-long extension. It would be paid for by extending the mandatory cuts in the sequester for an additional year, but at the back end, which is to say, in 2024 — mostly Medicare provider cuts.

Extending these cuts by a year would in effect build on the temporary sequester replacement deal Congress recently passed, because that deal extended mandatory sequester cuts for two years later to pay for discretionary sequester relief in 2014 and 2015. The new “pay for” for unemployment benefits would simply extend those mandatory cuts another year much later.

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The expired law provided a maximum of 47 weeks of payments after an unemployed worker has exhausted state-funded benefits, usually 26 weeks.

The new measure would reduce the 47 weeks to a maximum of 31 weeks, officials said, based on a sliding scale that dates to the expired program.

Officials said the first tier of additional benefits would be six weeks, and be generally available to all who have used up their state eligibility.

They said an additional six weeks would be available in states where unemployment is 6 percent or higher; an additional nine weeks in states with joblessness of 7 percent or higher; and 10 more in states where unemployment is 9 percent or more.

The cost would be offset in part by extending a previously-approved reduction in Medicare payments to providers, officials said, and in part by limiting or eliminating the ability of individuals on Social Security disability from also receiving unemployment benefits.

Sources: Washington Post , Associated Press

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