Perhaps bigger news to most than the NFL Thanksgiving games, in a close vote on November 20, the United States House of Representatives failed to pass an extension to unemployment benefits for workers without jobs that are set to expire on November 30. With the Thanksgiving holiday coming in between these two dates, it is unclear whether there will be another chance to try to pass some sort of plan before the current one expires. The vote was 258 in favor and 154 against, with one of the main sources of opposition coming from dissenters who wanted to see cuts elsewhere to pay for the measure.
With the current unemployment extension set to expire at the end of November 2010, there are an estimated 800,000 workers who will lose their benefits instantly and around 2 million by the end of the calendar year if something isn't done. The program is a temporary addition to normally legislated benefits that is written as a temporary fix to help the country along during tough economic times. This is why it had an end date like a few others that came before it. Under the terms of laws in different states, workers can draw benefits for different periods of time, but what this unemployment extension has done is allow workers in high unemployment areas to draw for up to 99 weeks, which is much longer than typical limits .
Two Thirds Vote Needed
Like many votes of this kind, an extension would require a two thirds vote, or something like eighteen votes more than the November 20 proposal received. In other words, if some of the disagreements can be worked out regarding the way the measure is going to be paid for, there probably is some hope of passage if it ever sees the light of day on the House floor again. Some bills and other measures only require a simple majority, which this unemployment extension easily captured; but the need for a two thirds majority is calling for quite a strong mandate from Representatives and their constituents.
Of course, there have been petition drives and things of that nature for people to let their reps know how they feel about the importance of the extension. It is hard for some families to pay their bills like the rent and the gap insurance coverage even with unemployment. Losing that extension will make things even harder for many people. But there are also those who suggest that the system needs to be updated to require recipients to do community service or something of that nature in order to keep receiving the unemployment extension while they are out of work.
Debate over Unemployment
And on top of these groups is another minority that has either gotten larger or just louder recently in its opinion that these things should be allowed to make their own corrections and that any program like this is actually hurting the free market in the end. There are so many different opinions out there that Americans can probably learn something from all of them and come to their own conclusions about these things in time. The current unemployment extension was a helpful stopgap for many out of work Americans; but to others it is a source of waste. They see workers back on the job and getting paid cash or banking their hours while they continue to claim. The debate is probably just getting started even as this lame duck session of Congress heads toward its final conclusion. A new unemployment extension is unlikely at the moment, but it is still not impossible.