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Harkin: Senate Minority Blocks Unemployment Insurance Extension, Putting Politics Before Needs of Working Families

WASHINGTON—Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement after Senate Republicans blocked a restoration of federal unemployment insurance (UI) from moving forward. The proposal, which was fully paid-for, would have restored federal unemployment insurance for three months for the 1.7 million Americans who lost their benefits when they expired on December 28, in order to give Congress additional time to work out a longer extension of UI.

“Today’s Senate vote was a critical opportunity to bring a much-needed boost—through the restoration of unemployment insurance—to 1.7 million Americans, including 7,100 Iowans, looking for work and trying to make ends meet. But once again, too many of my colleagues put politics before the needs of struggling families around the country,” Harkin said. “Federal unemployment insurance is a lifeline for working families—and as our economy continues to recover, the most important thing we can do is to give jobseekers the resources they need to find a new job and get back on track.

“Today’s vote, however, is not the end of the line.  I will continue the fight to extend unemployment insurance and to get workers the UI coverage they have earned and so rightly deserve.”

The unemployment insurance system is a partnership between the federal government and state governments that provides a temporary weekly benefit to qualified workers who lose their job through no fault of their own and are seeking work. The amount of that benefit is based in part on a worker’s past earnings.  In Iowa, the average weekly payment for the federal UI program is $291.