The U.S. Senate earlier this month approved an extension of long-term unemployment benefits, but hopes were dashed that a deal could be reach before Congress’ Easter recess, and most observers say the measure faces an uphill battle in the House when legislators return to work.
Last week, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California called House Republicans refusal to vote on extending unemployment benefits “immoral.”
Pelosi’s comment comes in a letter to Nevada’s Republican Governor, Brian Sandoval, and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Democrat, in which she thanks them for their support of extending jobless benefits to the long-time unemployed.
The governors wrote Pelosi and House Speaker John A. Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, and urged them to take up the Senate’s bill, reported Daniel Newhauser for Roll Call.
The unemployment rates in Nevada and Rhode Island, where the pace of recovery following the Great Recession has been slower than the national average, are the highest in the country.
“As you know, long-term unemployment remains unacceptably high despite the fact that our economy has been recovering from the worst recession in generations. When our country has experienced similar rates of long-term unemployment in the past, Congress has consistently acted in a bipartisan fashion to extend emergency unemployment benefits,” the governors wrote.
In response, Pelosi wrote: “It is unconscionable” that the House has failed to act. “Never before has Congress allowed emergency unemployment insurance to expire while long-term unemployment rates have remained so high.”
“House Republicans’ refusal to extend emergency unemployment insurance is callous, shortsighted and immoral,” Roll Call reported Pelosi wrote.
There are Republicans who believe a compromise can be reached to move forward passage when the legislative body returns from its recess. Some republicans want job-related measures added to the bill and to then send it back to the Senate. According to Roll Call, Boehner is waiting for those proposals to come from the White House before he will consider moving ahead, but there seems to be little support in the GOP Conference for passing an extension.
In the meantime, the California Department of Employment Development, (EDD), which oversees the state’s unemployment benefits program, on last week put the number of Californians who have now run out of benefits at nearly 1.3 million.
On Friday of last week, according to EDD, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Los Angeles County was holding steady at 8.7 percent in March, compared to the previous month, and was below the 10.1 percent rate in March 2013.
Total nonfarm employment increased by 18,900 jobs in Los Angeles County between February and March to reach nearly 4.2 million. The government sector accounted for the bulk of the increase, adding 5,700 jobs, according to the EDD.
About 431,000 people were unemployed in March in Los Angeles County, which has a labor force of nearly 5 million. Statewide, 1.5 million people were unemployed, up slightly from February.