Faced with the fact that millions of Americans are losing their unemployment benefits and cutting into the national economic recovery, Tuesday night Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the Senate majority leader and the head of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced new legislation to extend lapsed and lapsing unemployment benefits. Republicans rejected an extension proposal attached to a larger jobs bill last week and asked Democrats to bring a standalone bill for a vote. The Reid-Baucus bill is not strictly standalone. Among other provisions, it includes an extension of the period in which homebuyers can close on a house and still claim the homebuyer tax credit, a change agreed to in the House yesterday.
“Folks in Montana and across the nation are struggling to find jobs in this tough economy, and every day these benefits are lapsed is another day Americans worry how they will feed their families while they look for work,” Baucus said in a press release. “I urge my colleagues to stand with us to support American families and restore the unemployment insurance benefits that are often the only lifeline many workers have in this tough economy.”
Reid filed for cloture last night, and is working with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to move the bill today, though Republicans have repeatedly objected to any measure that increases the deficit.
The new bill extends federal unemployment insurance benefits through Nov. 2010, and the closing period for qualification for the homebuyer tax credit to Sept. 30. It is technically a substitute amendment to the killed jobs legislation. Here is a summary of what’s in the bill:
Unemployment benefits: Restarts the emergency unemployment compensation program phased out at the end of May 2010. The program provides up to 53 weeks of extended benefits, depending on the state’s unemployment rate. The measure is retroactive — meaning that Americans who have lost their unemployment checks will be compensated — and goes through November.
Further extended benefits: Restarts funding for further tiers of unemployment benefits to 99 weeks.
Eliminates the penalty for part-time workers collecting unemployment benefits: Gives states the option to let UI claimants keep certain benefits if switching to state benefits would reduce their weekly UI check by at least $100 or 25 percent.
These three provisions cost $33.9 billion over ten years.
Extends the closing date for the homebuyer tax credit: Homebuyers need to have purchased a house by April 30, 2010. Now, they need to close by Oct. 1, not July 1, 2010. The provision is estimated to cost $140 million over ten years.
Change to the Travel Promotion Act (TPA): The Department of Homeland Security was due to fund the Travel Promotion Board by the end of the year. This delays that funding start by a year. This change saves $95 million over ten years.