Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) today made the following statement concerning the proposed two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and federal unemployment insurance and protecting access under Medicare:
A two-month extension of unemployment insurance and the payroll tax cut is wholly inadequate as the American people digging out of the deepest recession in decades deserve much more certainty and compassion about their economic distress. Medicare patients also deserve to know after a lifetime of hard work that their doctors will be there when they need them.
"During this two-month period, workers in some of the hardest-hit states -- including Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri -- are projected to lose access to the 20-week Extended Benefits program and with very little warning tens of thousands of long-term unemployed Americans will be cut off unemployment insurance.
"This is a result of the complete unwillingness of Republicans to ask the very wealthy to sacrifice some of their tax breaks to help get our economy back on a more stable footing. At every turn, whether it is jobs legislation or deficit reduction, the consistent priority of the Republican majority is protecting the tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
"Our nation's workers thrown out of jobs through no fault of their own deserve better.
The Extended Benefits program -- which provides up to 20 weeks of federal unemployment insurance -- determines states' eligibility in part through a "look-back" provision that compares the latest three-month average unemployment rate in each state with the three-month average from the previous three years. States whose unemployment rates are not 10 percent higher during the current period than any of the previous three years become ineligible for Extended Benefits even though, in many cases, their unemployment rates remain stubbornly high. Many states, including Michigan, Ohio and Indiana are projected to become ineligible -- through that three-year look-back -- within the first few months of the year.
Unaddressed in the short-term extension is a change that ensures that workers in the hardest hit states don't become ineligible for Extended Benefits.
Instead, H.R. 3346 would extend federal unemployment insurance through 2012 and ensure Americans don't fall off Extended Benefits just because their state's unemployment rate, while remaining high, hasn't continued to grow.