In less than six days, unemployment benefits for long-term out-of-work Americans will begin to expire. That's because Congress can't agree on the terms of another emergency extension. The Senate is unlikely to act again on the issue until after the Easter recess.
After senators couldn't agree on the terms of the emergency extension last week, Oklahoma Senator Tom Colburn put a hold on the extension bill under consideration. It had already passed by the House. Earlier in the month, Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning held up another extension bill.
Other benefits will also begin to expire on April 5, including COBRA benefits for the jobless, federal highway funding and reimbursement fees for doctors serving Medicare patients
Some 14.9 million Americans were out of work in February 2010. More than 6 million of them have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks. Standard unemployment benefits run for only 26 weeks, but since the start of the Great Recession, Congress has passed periodic extensions to help the long-term unemployed.
The National Employment Law Project is calling on Congress to pass an unemployment extension to run through the end of 2010 (pdf), rather than having to pass shorter bills every few months. Given recent projections that unemployment will remain high through at least 2011, that makes a lot of sense.