Gilmer Free Press
EFFORTS TO DELAY HELP FOR THE WEST VIRGINIANS IN NEED OF ASSISTANCE “SHAMEFUL”
Senator Jay Rockefeller released the following statement about delay tactics stalling multiple attempts to extend critical expiring provisions, including unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits:
“I hear from West Virginia families everyday who are hurting, and who depend on unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits to take care of their families and make ends meet. Attempts to stop these benefits from getting into the hands of those in need is just shameful. We are in one of the worst economic recessions in our nation’s history and people are counting on us to do right by them. West Virginians have no time or patience for partisanship – these obstructionist tactics need to stop.”
Important Background Information
Senator Bunning from Kentucky has repeatedly blocked Senate passage of H.R. 4691, the Temporary Extension Act of 2010. The legislation had been expected to be considered and voted upon this week, but now there is uncertainty on how and when these benefits will be extended.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), enacted a year ago, provided additional weeks of unemployment benefits to laid-off workers struggling to find a job and boosted unemployment benefits by $25 per week. These benefits were extended for two months, until February 28, 2010 in the Finance package, included as part of end-of-year defense appropriations legislation under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA.
According to estimates by the National Employment Law Project, over 5000 West Virginians may lose access to federal benefits in March unless action is taken to extend the federal unemployment benefits. The Congressional Budget Office considers temporary additional unemployment benefits one of the most effective ways to boost output and employment. HR 4691 would extend for 30-days certain expiring provisions, including unemployment insurance, COBRA, flood insurance, highway funding, small business loans and small business provisions of the American Recovery Act, the Satellite Home View Act, and poverty provisions.
The following is a list of benefits that are included in the blocked legislation, most of which are extended until the end of March 2010, unless otherwise noted below:
Extension of Unemployment Programs: Extends Federal Unemployment Programs, including the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program, through April 05, 2010.
Extension of COBRA Assistance: Extends eligibility for 65% subsidy for COBRA premiums and includes technical improvements.
• Extension of Medicare Physician Update: Extends current Medicare payment rates for physicians (preventing a 21% payment reduction).
• Extension of Medicare Therapy Caps Exceptions: Extends exceptions process for beneficiary payment limits on outpatient therapy services.
• Extension of Poverty Guidelines: Extends current provision maintaining 2009 poverty guidelines.
• Extension of Surface Transportation Programs: Extends Surface Transportation Programs and related authority to make expenditures from the highway trust fund.
• Extension of National Flood Insurance Program.
• Extension of Small Business Loan Grantee Program: Extends program and appropriates an additional $60 million for the program.
• Satellite Television Extension: Extends the copyright license used by satellite television providers.