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Failure to extend jobless benefits concerns area reps
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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia (second from right), joined by, (from left) House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks about the budget deal at a news conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill following a closed-door GOP strategy session. (AP)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The area’s congressmen expressed regret Wednesday that an extension of unemployment benefits was not included in a budget deal that would avoid a government shutdown and restore about $63 billion in automatic spending cuts.

The deal, announced Tuesday by congressional negotiators, would not extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, according to Associated Press reports. The EUC program is slated to expire Dec. 28.

In a statement, 9th District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, said that “the balance between providing benefits for people who have been unemployed at the current level of up to 40 weeks and other programs is difficult. I had hoped that there would be some language for me to consider. However, a compromise on overarching issues for the federal government has been reached, and I must judge that compromise based on its positives and negatives.”

Griffith said before the deal was reached that he had mixed feelings regarding the extension of the EUC program.

“So many people in my district have been unemployed for so long,” he said, that many may not qualify for the program even if it were extended.

Griffith said then that he has compassion for those who have been chronically unable to find employment, whether they have lost manufacturing jobs in the Southside region of the district or mining jobs in the western region.

However, he said, “this (program) was supposed to be an extraordinary measure to get us through the recession,” and he was concerned that it might be viewed as a permanent program.

Fifth District U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham, said in a statement Wednesday that he “was disappointed that a responsible extension of unemployment benefits was not considered in this package, but it is important to note that those who are unemployed are eligible for unemployment benefits for a period of at least 26 weeks.”

Hurt added that his top priority since joining the Congress has been advancing legislation to foster economic growth and private sector job creation.

According to a report from the Council of Economic Advisers and the Department of Labor, the EUC program was authorized by Congress in 2008 to provide support to the economy and Americans who lost jobs as a result of the recession.

The report, which argued in favor of extending unemployment insurance, said that on the national level, nearly 24 million workers have received benefits since the program’s inception, and roughly 1.3 million workers will lose benefits if the program expires Dec. 28.

According to the report, 363,830 Virginians received EUC benefits between January 2008 and September 2013. The report projected that 69,900 unemployed Virginians will be affected in 2014 if the EUC is not extended.

The report also projected that 1,477 jobs would be saved in the commonwealth if the EUC is extended through the end of next year.

The budget deal is not yet finalized. However, members of both parties have expressed support, and votes are expected soon in both the House and Senate, the AP reported.


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