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Brown, Portman Float Ideas for Paying for Unemployment Insurance Extension

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The U.S. Senate is debating how to extend federal unemployment payments that kick in when people searching for work reach the end of their state benefits. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports both of Ohio’s senators are open to an extension, but there’s no agreement yet.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 6:15 pm

At the end of last year, Congress didn't renew the federal unemployment insurance program. About 40,000 Ohioans who otherwise would have continued receiving checks stopped getting them.

This week, six Senate Republicans -- including Ohio Sen. Rob Portman -- joined Democrats in voting to bring to the floor a bill extending benefits for three months.

In a conference call with reporters, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown made the case for that renewal.

“It would provide families the resources they need," Brown said. "People should be able to focus on finding work without the added stress of whether they can pay the rent, put food on the table. The average benefit’s about $300.”

Meanwhile, Republicans are asking that the extension be paid for by cuts elsewhere. One proposal would prevent undocumented immigrants from taking advantage of a tax credit for children. Another would prevent people receiving disability benefits from also getting unemployment checks.

Portman spoke his mind on the Senate floor, in remarks broadcast online by C-SPAN.

“Yes, I’m willing to extend unemployment insurance and pay for it," Portman said. "But during that period, let’s come up with a better unemployment insurance program that actually connects people to the jobs that are out there.”

Brown hasn’t committed to Republican proposals on undocumented immigrants and disability benefits. But he says if benefits must be paid for, Congress should stop allowing companies that move overseas to deduct the cost as a business expense.

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