With nearly 1.5 million Americans expected to exhaust their unemployment benefits by the end of the year, the stakes are high for a federally funded benefits extension that has been delayed in the Senate. While the House earlier passed a version of the bill by a wide margin, the Senate expanded the reach of the House bill by offering additional weeks of paid benefits to all states, rather than only those with the highest unemployment rates. While the Senate bill doesn't lack support, Republicans have objected to its funding and have been interested in adding amendments that don't have much favor among Democrats.
RollCall reports that the two sides are working to find agreement on the amendments, but the measure could otherwise take up much of the Senate's schedule next week.
This is better news for the unemployed, who are exhausting their benefits at a rate of 7,000 individuals a day, according to estimates from the National Employment Law Project.
The Senate bill would provide between 14 and 20 additional weeks of benefits for eligible workers, but it's still unclear what the job market will look like when those benefits have also been exhausted. The Labor Department's most recent report on job openings and turnover showed a series-low level of 2.4 million job openings on the last business day in August, compared with roughly 15 million unemployed job seekers. While the White House and Congress continue to consider new ways of stimulating job growth through spending or tax credits, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has begun to voice strong concerns about the nation's fiscal deficit.