Friday, October 2, 2009

Perriello Wants To Extend Unemployment Benefits Across the Board

Although there are many economists who say that the economy is on its way back up, they also frequently mention how there is usually some delay between when the economy starts recovering and when businesses start hiring in full force again. This means that there are some people who are still unemployed due to conditions beyond their control. In order to help many of the people who have lost their jobs, the house passed legislation that would extend unemployment benefits in states that have an unemployment rate of 8.5% or higher.

While that legislation will be very helpful for people living in the 27 states that qualify, it unfortunately doesn't help people in almost half of the country who just need a little help to stay on their feet while they're doing their best to find a new job. Virginia, for instance, has a 6.5% unemployment rate and therefore didn't qualify for the unemployment extension. It's for that reason that most of the Democrats from Virginia voted against the legislation. According to the Martinsville Bulletin, however, Tom Perriello has now written a letter to the House leadership suggesting the benefits in all states be extended for six weeks.
On Tuesday, Perriello sent a letter to Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, asking for his support to immediately extend the benefits to all states for six weeks. The letter also asks Rangel for help in developing a new formula for future laws that would take regional unemployment rates into account.

“As illustrated by my district, some localities have a much higher need than those in neighboring areas,” Perriello wrote. “An alternative measure that takes regional unemployment rates into account may serve as a better measure for eligibility, and I believe it could lower costs by helping those most in need.”

Perriello’s letter asks Rangel to support adding the six-week extension to the bill when it is in conference committee. That is the point when legislators from both the Senate and House iron out differences in their two versions of the legislation before it goes to the president, assuming both bodies pass the legislation.
According to what I've been told, many of the members who voted against the bill that just passed the House also have questions about the regional eligibility measure. As one staffer said to me earlier today, "A person who lost their job in a region with a large group of people out of work doesn't suffer any more than the person who lost their job in a community that doesn't have a high unemployment rate. They both lost their job because of a poor economy all across the country."

The question therefore becomes whether or not there would be enough support for the measure to get the leadership to fight for the extension during the conference between the House and Senate. Whatever the final decision is, Congress needs to act quickly because the benefits for those on unemployment have already started to expire.

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