Several Dayton groups are asking Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio’s 10th district to help renew emergency unemployment benefits. A bipartisan Senate bill expected to pass this week has found little support in the House.
The Senate deal would retroactively extend emergency unemployment compensation, which is a program for the long-term unemployed, to the 2 million people who saw payments cut off in December. The extension would only last through May, but it would provide monetary relief to those who lost benefits and act as a stop gap while Democrats on the Hill continue to push the issue.
“They went home for Christmas and left the unemployed out in the cold,” says Logan Martinez with the Miami Valley Full Employment Council (MVFEC). “The Republicans are holding the unemployed hostage.”
MVFEC joined with National Nurses United and several other union groups Friday to protest in front of Rep. Turner’s Dayton office. They want unemployment benefits returned to the approximately 40,000 people in Ohio had those extended payments cut off in December. Emergency unemployment extends federal payments to those who have lost their jobs by weeks or sometimes months beyond state limits on unemployment payments.
Some Republicans have pointed out that the program was initiated at the height of the Recession and was never intended to be a permanent program, and they have insisted on an extension that is paid for out of some other program.
A previous effort at a compromise fell apart in the Senate after it lost the support of Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who’s been a key swing vote on the issue. The most recent compromise would pay for itself through a set of complex reforms to pension programs, and it would exclude millionaires from getting unemployment payments. Sen. Portman and Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown are co-sponsors of the new deal, with Sen. Portman acting as one of just five senate Republicans to throw their weight behind the compromise.
“People are devastated by being jobless,” says Rhonda Risner Hanos with National Nurses United. She says she sees the effects of unemployment every day at work. “They don’t have homes, they don’t have food, they don’t have health care, and that’s why it’s important to me, because I have to take care of them.”
Rep. Turner was not available for an interview, and his office did not respond to emailed questions regarding his stance on emergency unemployment. Turner hasn't taken a public stance on the issue, but he may not have to: House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio’s 8th district has suggested he probably won’t bring a vote on the deal.