Senate negotiators are back at the drawing board in trying to renew emergency unemployment-insurance benefits for more than 2 million Americans who have been out of work for at least six months.
Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada have resumed negotiations to create new legislation that would extend the benefits.
The Senate passed a bill in April that would have extended the benefits through May and provided retroactive checks to those who had stopped receiving payments since the program expired on Dec. 28. But that legislation expired on May 31 with no action in the House, putting the onus on senators who favor the program to try again.
Reed and Heller have been working together on a new solution for at least two weeks and hope to extend the program through at least the end of this year. While the national unemployment rate is dropping, Reed said, the long-term unemployment rate is not. "We're finding a lot of people who are mid-career, have worked for 20 or 30 years, and are just finding it very, very hard to get back in. And these benefits are vital for them," he said.
But the two senators face a number of constraints that are hampering their negotiations. Because the benefits disappeared more than five months ago and they'll have to find some way to pay for every penny of the new bill, they warn that granting retroactive benefits to millions may not be possible this time around.