Doggett pushes bill to extend unemployment benefits

Posted on from Austin American-Statesman in In the News

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett promoted his bill Wednesday in Washington to extend federal unemployment insurance programs through 2012.

Doggett’s measure, House Resolution 3346, would prevent Congress from letting federal unemployment insurance expire. Some people will begin losing benefits in six weeks unless the bill becomes law.

“We’re ready to work with anyone in either party to prevent over 5 million of our American neighbors from facing the night before Christmas, wondering if in the New Year, they will have money to pay the rent and put food on the table,” said Doggett, D-Austin, at a news conference. “The rent won’t wait. The car payment, the pickup truck payment won’t wait on the Congress.”

Some Republicans are expected to oppose Doggett’s measure, taking the position that the country cannot afford to maintain assistance for the unemployed.

If passed, the measure also would relieve states with federal unemployment insurance loans from interest charges next year and prevent higher federal unemployment taxes on employers in insolvent states.

Since Texas does not currently have a federal unemployment insurance loan, it would not be affected by the interest provision, Doggett’s office said.

The national unemployment rate is 9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Texas, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is lower, at 8.4 percent, the bureau reported.

Organized labor came out in strong support of the measure.

“Americans are suffering through the worst crisis of long-term unemployment since the Great Depression,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s time for Congress to get to work and help American workers who are going through serious hardship through no fault of their own.”

HR 3346 could once again put Doggett and Gov. Rick Perry at odds.

In March 2009, Perry announced that he would block the state from accepting $550 million for expanded unemployment benefits as part of the federal stimulus package. To be eligible for the money, Texas would have had to enact legislation that would change how the state calculates a worker’s eligibility and extend benefits to more workers, including those looking for part-time work.

When Perry’s office was asked about the governor’s position on HR 3346, Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed replied in a statement: “People want a paycheck, not an unemployment check. The federal government should focus on reducing the regulatory and tax burden on employers so they can create jobs and fuel our economy.”