While unemployment insurance (UI) is running out for nearly 13 million unemployed workers, congressional Republicans have spent their time pushing a UI extension that included harsh and punitive requirements for jobless workers such as requiring unemployed workers to pay for reemployment services, acquire a high school degree, undergo drug testing and more. They also called for cutting 40 weeks of benefits from the unemployed.
Congress has reached a tentative deal extending UI–reportedly through the end of the year–that drops the most egregious proposals, yet caps at 73 the number of weeks for jobless benefits, down from the current 99. And in exchange for extending the desperately needed UI program for the nation’s nearly 13 million workers and maintaining the payroll tax cut, Republicans also insisted on forcing cuts on federal workers’ pensions to pay for jobless benefits.
AFGE President John Gage says the cuts to federal workers retirement “is simply wrong headed.” He told reporters this afternoon that two successive federal pay freezes have cost workers some $60 billion.
Here we have workers being asked to pay for something that they didn’t cause or have any part in, yet the tax on millionaires, elimination of tax subsidies to big businesses, agriculture subsidies—none of this comes into play to pay for this UI extension. But one party has insisted it come out federal employee retirements from people making 30 to 40,000 actually having to pay for UI.
This latest partisan Republican game-playing follows moves by congressional Republicans to block the UI program several times last year.