NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — More than 200,000 jobless Americans are anxiously waiting for the Senate to restore their extended unemployment insurance.
These folks were expected to stop getting checks this week after lawmakers failed to extend an April 5 deadline to file for federally-paid benefits before adjourning for a two-week recess. A total of a million people could lose benefits this month if the Senate doesn’t act, according to the National Employment Law Project.
When they return Monday, senators are scheduled to take the first vote needed to push back the deadline until early May.
A final vote, however, is unlikely to come until later next week. Monday’s move is a procedural step that simply allows lawmakers to consider the bill. Democrats need at least one Republican to join them to get the legislation past this hurdle.
Though the measure generally enjoys bipartisan support, it has gotten caught in the divisive politics pervading Capitol Hill. Republicans blocked the extension’s passage late last month, saying the $9 billion bill should be paid for.
Consumer advocates are urging lawmakers to quickly approve extending this lifeline. Some 11.2 million people now receive unemployment insurance, with 6 million of them collecting extended benefits, according to the law project. Though the economy is slowly improving, the unemployment rate remains stuck at 9.7% and the average duration of unemployment is 31.2 weeks.
“The jobs crisis is a crisis for all Americans, employed and unemployed alike — so hopefully when Congress returns from recess, it will move past pointing fingers and playing games, and confront the national jobs emergency,” said Christine Owens, the law project’s executive director.
Federal unemployment benefits, which last up to 73 weeks, kick in after state-funded 26 weeks of coverage expire. These federal benefits are divided into tiers, and the jobless must apply each time they move into a new tier.
Lawmakers have already approved two short-term extensions of the filing deadline since late December. Both the House and the Senate also have passed bills that push back the deadline to file for extended benefits until later in the year, but those measures need to be reconciled.