Washington – Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is tussling with House Speaker John Boehner again, this time over long-term unemployment benefits.
Boehner has said renewing jobless benefits that ended Dec. 28 for the long-term unemployed is “unworkable” because state labor departments don’t know how many people are still eligible. To be eligible, a worker must continue to be unemployed and seeking work.
Connecticut’s Department of Labor says it does not know who might be eligible to have jobless benefits reinstated, says the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.
In fact, most states stopped tracking people who participated in the program after the federal benefits expired in December.
Yet Malloy wrote Boehner a letter released Wednesday saying, “We want to make it clear Connecticut is ready to act”
Michael Steel, Boehner’s press secretary, said the speaker had not received any similar letters from other governors.
Malloy’s letter, signed by all five Democrats in Connecticut’s House delegation, urged Boehner to act “immediately” on a bill the Senate approved Monday that would extend jobless benefits to long-term unemployed for five months. Under the bill, benefits would be given retroactively to those who lost them since Dec. 28.
Before the benefits expired, thousands of unemployed people in Connecticut and throughout the country could count on 76 weeks of additional federal unemployment compensation at the end of 26 weeks of benefits from the state.
Congress has allowed long-term unemployment benefits to lapse before, but it has been only for days or at most a few weeks, not months, like it has today.
In a letter to senators, Mark Henry, president of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, said some states have indicated they might decide it’s not feasible to implement the Senate-approved bill. Others said the jobless would have to wait.
“A majority of states have said implementing the proposed legislation could take from one to three months,” Henry said.
The delays were attributable to antiquated computer systems and the implementation of the so-called “millionaires’ amendment,” a provision in the Senate bill that would bar millionaires from collecting federal unemployment benefits. Henry said states don’t mean test applicants and don’t know which, if any, are millionaires.
The nearly five-month lapse in long-term unemployment benefits is the most severe problem, Henry wrote, because it makes it “nearly impossible” to determine eligibility for benefits “and to avoid improper payments to claimants who are ineligible.”
In their letter to Boehner, however, Malloy and Connecticut’s lawmakers said, “the importance of extending unemployment aid far outweighs any challenge in administering it.”
Last month, Malloy clashed with Boehner over Connecticut’s decision to adjust its “heat and eat” program so thousands of state food stamp recipients would not have their benefits cuts under new federal regulations. Boehner called the tactic a fraud.
Malloy also sent a letter to Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez saying they support Senate efforts to provide unemployment compensation to the long-term unemployed.