February 26, 2010

Republicans Block Jobless Aid for Thousands of Rhode Islanders

WASHINGTON, DC -Senate Republicans led by Jim Bunning (R-KY) filibustered passage of critical legislation to extend for 30 days jobless benefits, health insurance subsidies, and tax breaks for small businesses, that will now expire on February 28th. Democrats will soon take up legislation that includes a longer extension of these benefits, but programs will be needlessly disrupted.

U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) decried the obstruction, and called for the Senate to move swiftly to extend these critical programs. Several Senate Republicans agree with Reed and Whitehouse and suggested that they did not support Senator Bunning’s tactics.

“It is outrageous that Republicans who repeatedly approved deficit spending to help unemployed Iraqis are cutting off an extension of emergency benefits for struggling Rhode Island families. Twelve hundred Rhode Islanders will start losing their benefits on Monday because Republicans are refusing to put people before partisanship,” said Reed, who recently introduced the Helping Unemployed Workers Act to extend unemployment insurance through the rest of the year. “I will continue to fight for Rhode Islanders and Americans hit hardest by the recession so they can feed their families and keep their health insurance while they look for a job.”

“I hear heart wrenching stories from hardworking Rhode Islanders who are suffering in our terrible economy. People are losing their jobs, homes, and health coverage through no fault of their own, and for many the only remaining support for their families is unemployment insurance,” said Whitehouse. “To play political games with people in this distress is an unconscionable way to make a point about the deficit, particularly from a party that had no compunction about deficit spending for no-bid contracts for Halliburton, handouts to the pharmaceutical industry and massive tax breaks for the richest Americans.”

Rhode Island currently has a 12.9% unemployment rate, and 50,000 Rhode Islanders are receiving unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.

The Temporary Extension Act of 2010 would have extended Federal Unemployment Programs, including the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program, through April 5 as well as the following through March 28:

• COBRA Assistance – eligibility for 65% subsidy for COBRA premiums (including technical improvements);
• Medicare Physician Update – current Medicare payment rates for physicians (preventing a 21% payment reduction);
• Medicare Therapy Caps Exceptions – exceptions process for beneficiary payment limits on outpatient therapy services;
• Poverty Guidelines – the current provision maintaining 2009 poverty guidelines;
• Surface Transportation Programs and the related authority to make expenditures from the highway trust fund;
• National Flood Insurance Program;
• Small Business Loan Grantee Program (and appropriated an additional $60 million for the program); and
• Satellite Television Extension -the copyright license used by satellite television providers.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921