Brown, Portman break jobless impasse

The compromise, which ends a bitter impasse between Democrats and Republicans and should lead to Senate passage of the bill later this month, will extend emergency unemployment benefits for five months to 1.3 million Americans who had exhausted their regular and emergency benefits.

The average weekly benefit in Ohio is $318 with the maximum weekly benefit being $413. If Congress wins approval, retroactive benefits will be paid to people who lost their benefits on December 28. An additional 1.9 million people across the country would lose their benefits in June without congressional action.

In return for extending the benefits, the Democrats accepted demands by Portman and other Republicans that the measure be paid for and not add to the federal deficit. The bill will extend custom user fees through 2024.

Under Senate rules, the bill needs the backing of 60 senators to end a Republican filibuster before it can win passage and be sent to the House. A floor vote is expected when Congress returns from recess on March 24.

“This deal will ensure that Ohioans who work hard and take responsibility will have the resources they need to take care of their families while looking for a new job,’’ said Brown, D-Ohio.

Portman, R-Ohio, said that “this agreement is the first step toward reforming a broken program into a safety net that helps the unemployed quickly re-enter the work force and get back on their feet.’’

In addition to Brown and Portman, the other senators agreeing to the compromise are Democrats Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Jeff Merkley of Oregon along with Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Dean Heller of Nevada.

Signed into law in 2008 by Republican President George W. Bush, the program last year provided benefits to people who had already exhausted their 26 weeks of benefits through the states. In some states, people are eligible for as many as 67 weeks of emergency benefits.

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