Saving Unemployment Benefits – There’s No Time to Waste
by Emily J. Martin, Vice President,
National Women's Law Center
Yesterday, Senators Baucus and Reid introduced a new bill that would provide crucial assistance to women and families who are struggling to make ends meet in the face of continuing high unemployment rates.
First, it would provide extended and enhanced unemployment benefits through the end of 2010. The bill would also provide retroactive unemployment insurance benefits for the hundreds of thousands of who lost this lifeline as of Sunday as a result of Senator Bunning’s continued objections to an emergency extension.
Second, it would provide COBRA subsidies to individuals who have lost their jobs through the end of 2010, helping families keep their health insurance in the face of unemployment. Again, this assistance would be retroactive, and would reimburse those individuals who lost these subsidies as of Sunday as a result of Senator Bunning’s continued objections.
Third, it would provide necessary funding for Medicaid to prevent states from cutting women off Medicaid or reducing services. In the absence of this additional funding, states around the country will be cutting Medicaid benefits and restricting Medicaid eligibility in an effort to balance budgets at the very moment that more and more families who have hit hard times are relying on Medicaid.
Fourth, it would ensure that low-income workers who have received tax refunds through measures such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit wouldn’t become ineligible for means-tested benefits like child care assistance or Medicaid as a result of these tax refunds during 2010.
The bill also would provide funding for loans to small businesses, extend a host of corporate and individual tax breaks through 2010, and would avoid Medicare cuts in payments to doctors, among a grab-bag of other provisions. While the merits of some elements of the package could be debated, and while the bill fails to make the direct investments in job creation at the scale that remains desperately needed, millions of Americans need help NOW.
The expiration of extended unemployment insurance and COBRA subsidies means that hundreds of thousand of unemployed workers are facing a crisis right now as they try to make ends meet. The absence of additional Medicaid funding means that states are making decisions right now that will lead to the loss of health care for families on Medicaid. We are in the midst of the tax filing season, which means that right now families are being threatened with the loss of assistance they depend on because they have received the tax refunds that were intended to enhance their economic security. Introducing a bill is not enough. Congress must act immediately to enact these provisions to assist those Americans who need it most.
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