Late Friday, Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL) led a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) calling on them to include an extension of unemployment insurance and a 65 percent COBRA subsidy in any jobs package they put forward. The jobs bill originally introduced in the Senate last week included these extensions, but they were later stripped from the legislation.
"In a time of continued economic crisis, these benefits are a critical safety net for millions of Americans and their families and often the only things preventing many from falling into poverty and losing their health insurance," the letter reads. "With the unemployment rate having risen again in 43 states last month, unemployment nationwide at 10 percent, and the Congressional Budget Office expecting it to remain at this level for an extended period of time, we respectfully ask that you do all that you can to ensure that an extension of both unemployment benefits and COBRA subsidies are included in whatever "jobs package' the Senate ultimately considers."
"This issue is a no-brainer," Hare said. "With these critical benefits set to expire in just 12 days, the Senate must act on a long-term extension. We owe this assistance to Americans who have lost their jobs and health care through no fault of their own."
In December, the House passed the Jobs for Main Street Act, legislation which included an extension of unemployment insurance and the COBRA subsidy through June of 2010.