After months of uncertainty, an extension of unemployment benefits for 2.3 million Americans still remains in limbo.
The Senate approved the bipartisan deal reached in mid-March 59 to 38 on April 7. The bill's prospects in the House are dim, as Republicans in that chamber have already expressed opposition. Senators said prior to passage that they were willing to make changes to get the bill approved in the House.
Under the deal, unemployment insurance would be extended for five months -- but it would be retroactive to December, when benefits expired. The bill's chances of passing in the House remain unclear.
Congress did not include an extension of unemployment benefits as part of a bipartisan budget deal crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). The states most affected by the expiration are Nevada, California, Illinois, Georgia, and New Jersey.
According to some economists, cutting off unemployment benefits is exacerbating economic problems by significantly reducing the spending of millions of Americans on everything from basic supplies to fuel. Others believe overly generous benefits serve as a disincentive for people to find work.
President Obama, citing inaction in Congress to pass an extension of unemployment benefits, on Jan. 31 launched an effort with CEOs from 300 companies to help hire people who have been out of work for more than six months.
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