Jobless one step closer to regaining benefits

By Tami Luhby, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The Senate took the first step Monday to extend the deadline fpr the jobless to file for unemployment insurance.

Monday's action, a procedural step narrowly approved by a 60 to 34 vote, clears the way for a final vote, which will likely come later this week. The $9.2 billion bill would be retroactive to the April 5 deadline and would extend benefits through May 5.

More than 200,000 jobless Americans were expected to stop getting checks last week after lawmakers failed to extend the deadline to file for federally paid benefits. A total of a million people could lose benefits this month if the Senate doesn't act, according to the National Employment Law Project.

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 bill should be paid for. Republican Senators Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and George Voinovich of Ohio supported the bill.

The bill also:

--Extends the deadline to file for COBRA health insurance subsidy through April 30.

--Prevents a 21% reduction in Medicare payment rates for doctors through April 30.

--Extends the National Flood Insurance Program through April 30.

--Extends the copyright license used by satellite television providers through April 30.

Vital lifeline

Consumer advocates are urging lawmakers to quickly approve extending unemployment insurance, which they term a vital 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.

CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this story.

Are you about to run out of extended unemployment benefits or have you already done so? Are you hoping Congress will extend benefits once again? If so, send an email to realstories@cnnmoney.com and you could be profiled in an upcoming piece at CNNMoney.com. For the CNNMoney.com Comment Policy, click here. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,030.57 -67.88 -0.40%
Nasdaq 4,580.07 -0.20 -0.00%
S&P 500 1,996.45 -6.92 -0.35%
Treasuries 2.41 0.07 2.86%
Data as of 12:54pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 103.45 0.95 0.93%
Bank of America Corp... 16.15 0.06 0.35%
Staples Inc 12.54 0.86 7.32%
Facebook Inc 76.05 1.23 1.64%
Intel Corp 34.54 -0.39 -1.10%
Data as of 12:39pm ET

Sections

The founding CEO of the Washington Post's big rival, Politico, will now be in charge of the Post More

Gas prices are falling to nearly $3 a gallon in some parts of South Carolina, and that will soon be common in much of the country. More

Microsoft is expected to begin showing off Windows 9's features later this month. Here are the expected changes you should be thrilled about. More

The Coolest Cooler is the most successful Kickstarter campaign in the site's history, raising $13.3 million from over 62,000 backers. More

A scam where fraudsters impersonate IRS agents has now stolen $5 million from taxpayers, and this woman - who lost her entire life savings -- is just one of its victims. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.