Senate fails to pass unemployment benefit extension - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Senate fails to pass unemployment benefit extension

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Federal lawmakers are voting not to extend jobless benefits to the nation's workers. Thursday, 57 senators said "no" to ending a Republican filibuster for the unemployment bill, effectively killing the measure.

According to Iowa Workforce Development Deputy Director Joseph Walsh, this has impacted 6,700 Iowans since benefits expired on June 2nd. Each week that passes, 1,500-2,000 more will see their aid expire. And it's not just unemployed men and women who will feel the effects.

"I think it's going to be devastating to our recovery. I think... I don't think people have fully thought through how bad this is going to be for us," he said.

The Senate decision means a worker who files for unemployment benefits can only get help for up to 26 weeks. Walsh said, that's fine, in a normal economy. But look through a recent help wanted page, and you can see why he said, right now, people need more help.

"There's still not enough jobs out there for everybody to be fully employed," said Walsh.

If people don't have enough money to live on, Walsh believes the entire community suffers.

"How many more people will face home foreclosures? How many people will be evicted because they can't pay rent? How much money will the local grocery store lose because people can't pay for food?" he noted.

That's what he hopes lawmakers will consider when, or if, the issue comes back up for a vote.

"I think the message has been spelled out to congress pretty clearly of how important this is, so part of me, I just can't imagine that they won't act on it," he added.

Iowa's senators were split on the decision. Republican Senator Charles Grassley voted "no", Democrat Tom Harkin said "yes" to the bill.

"If there's one thing that I hear from my constituents, it's that congress has to stop deficit spending. The package of tax credits and unemployment benefits has yet to pass the senate for one reason, and that's the fact that it adds to the trillions in debt we're passing on to our kids and grandkids. These are important programs, but there's no reason we can't cut bloated spending in other parts of the budget to pay for them. Republicans offered a plan that included the same provisions, and was fully paid for. It was a win-win for everybody, but the democratic leadership blocked it," Grassley stated.

Harkin said "We've tried for eight weeks. The republicans have consistently said no. I just talked to the leader. I think we may try it one more time next week before the fourth of July, but it looks like the republicans are unyielding. They will not let us get unemployment benefits to people who are out of work, and unconscionable. In my 35 years here, I have never seen anything like this. Never.

Walsh said there are other programs in place for folks searching for a job. He recommended all unemployed workers should stop by their local office to learn about their options.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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