In a letter to the GOP chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, several democratic committee members urged Rep. Dave Camp to take a break from hearings on the Affordable Care Act and hold one on the necessity of extending unemployment compensation through the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.
“An urgent economic issue confronts us through the pending expiration of the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program on Dec. 28, when 1.3mn Americans would immediately lose vital insurance as they continue to look for work,” the representatives wrote. “We must hear from Americans who just days after Christmas would immediately lose their unemployment insurance if Congress takes no action.”
Republican lawmakers have not responded to the plea, nor given a strategy for how to handle the program’s expiration.
“If the White House has a plan in mind, we’ll take a look, but it would be better for the President to focus on helping the unemployed find jobs,” a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner told the Washington Post.
If the program expires, 1.3mn Americans would face an “immediate cutoff” from their unemployment coverage, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said. The group added that extending benefits would help counterbalance the slow pace of the economic recovery as long-term unemployment continues to hold steady.
In the 2013 financial year, the federal government spent $26bn on the unemployment program. In recent years, Congress has amended the program to extend through the year four times rather than engage in serious policy revision.
The insurance program was created in 2008 following the financial crisis to help recently laid-off workers maintain living expenses while searching for a new job. The federal benefits kick in when claimants exhaust their 26 weeks of state-run unemployment insurance.
While Republican lawmakers fret over Americans with individual healthcare plans losing their insurance, House Democrats are putting pressure on Republican leaders to ensure unemployed Americans don’t lose their own benefits.