March 13, 2014, 04:54 pm
Senate reaches unemployment deal
By Vicki Needham
The Senate reached a bipartisan deal on Thursday that would renew unemployment benefits for five months.
The plan, put together by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), would provide retroactive benefits to those who lost federal help after the program expired on Dec. 28.
“There are a lot of good people looking for work and I am pleased we’re finally able to reach a strong, bipartisan consensus to get them some help,” Reed said.
The bill is co-sponsored by a broad swath of Democrats and Republicans, including Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
It would be considered after the Senate returns to Washington following a one-week recess.
The deal combines components from Republican and Democratic proposals.
It would use several offsets to pay for the $10 billion cost of extending the benefits, including pension smoothing provisions from the 2012 highway bill, which were set to phase out this year, and extending customs user fees through 2024.
The bill also includes an additional offset allowing single-employer pension plans to prepay their flat-rate premiums to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).
The measure would also prevent millionaires and billionaires from receiving the benefits.
The proposal also includes language pushed by Collins to strengthen reemployment and eligibility assessment and Re-employment Services programs, which would provide enhanced, personalized assessments and referrals to reemployment services when unemployed workers begin their 27th week of benefits.