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Pioneer Editorial: Jobless bill needs to be passed now

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opinion Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

By the end of the month, some 3.2 million Americans will lose their unemployment compensation, sending them to the street or to another government agency for welfare.

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A bill to extend jobless benefits to November wallows in the U.S. Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is in search of Republicans to agree to the extension, thus breaking the 60-vote filibuster hold the GOP has on the process.

Republicans are balking at the price tag -- $33.9 billion -- and as they should. But regardless, some kind of jobless bill is needed before millions of Americans fall off the cliff.

Congress has traditionally extended unemployment compensation in a recession, and the current Great Recession is the nation's worst. The current add-ons have brought unemployment comp to 99 weeks, with the previous high at 65 weeks. Meanwhile, there may be some argument over the cash benefits package, which has increased dramatically over the course of the recession, and in eligibility for benefits.

Perhaps jobless benefits need to be scaled down to provide the basic safety net for unintended layoffs, but that safety net surely needs to be there.

The threat of a Republican filibuster only harms those who have tried to seek work but failed to find it. The average person seeking work is on unemployment compensation for 35 weeks. As of May, for every job opportunity, there were five applicants.

Until the economy grows enough to begin new hiring, and putting Americans back to work, the unemployment compensation program serves as a safety net for out-of-work Americans who must still support their families in these rough times.

The Senate should have voted on the bill last month, but put it off to take its July 4 recess. The Senate is back, and the jobless bill should rise to the top and be approve before month's end. Failure to do so will send millions of people who depend on the aid off the radar screen.

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