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House Speaker John Boehner questions Senate unemployment deal

By Alan Fram

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 14 2014 2:50 p.m. MDT

Lawmakers said the proposal was fully paid for, with the bulk of the money raised by extending some customs fees through 2024 and delaying some companies' contributions to their pensions, in effect increasing their taxes now but reducing them later. More federal revenue would be raised by letting some companies make earlier payments to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which guarantees workers' pensions.

The deal would end jobless payments to people earning more than $1 million a year. The lawmakers cited 2010 data showing that 0.03 percent of taxpayers earned over $1 million and received some form of federal or state unemployment benefits.

The agreement also has a provision aimed at improving programs that help the long-term unemployed find new jobs and strengthening how the government verifies that they are eligible for unemployment benefits and assistance in finding jobs.

Jobless Americans can qualify initially for state-sponsored unemployment benefits, which generally run for 26 weeks. After that, they can receive emergency federal coverage that lasts from 14 weeks to 47 weeks, depending on how high unemployment is in their state.

When the emergency program expired Dec. 28, 1.3 million people immediately lost those benefits. Since then, an average of 72,000 people weekly exhausted state benefits and could not receive emergency coverage, according to the liberal National Employment Law Project, bringing the current total to just over 2 million.

Average weekly emergency benefits last year were $287, the group said.

AP Special Correspondent David Espo contributed to this report.

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