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Worker advocacy groups work to force early passage of UI benefits program extension

October 28th, 2010  |  Lucas Otto

Worker advocates are stepping up their efforts to ensure that Congress extends the unemployment insurance (UI) benefits program, warning that Congress will have only two weeks to pass an extension of the program when it returns from the midterm recess on November 15. The National Employment Law Project, which has recently argued that the UI benefits kept 3.3 million Americans from falling into poverty in 2009, has launched an online campaign, UnemployedWorkers.org, to advocate for Congressional action before the deadline to extend the program passes on November 30.

Such action is needed, according to the AFL-CIO, which has cautioned that because the Republicans have blocked recent extensions of the program, its advocates will have to return from the recess ready to act immediately.

NALP’s Christine Owens agrees, noting that when the benefits expired in June of 2010, seven weeks passed before Congress finally acted to reauthorize the benefits. During that time-frame, over 2 million Americans lost their benefits.

The groups may well have cause to fear Congressional inaction. According to recent, written reports, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) wants to force UI recipients to first pass a drug test before they would receive their benefits. Hatch, who has suggested that UI recipients are addicted to government assistance, proposed an amendment relating to his proposal to the earlier extension and is expected to do so again.