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Ohio Senators Vote To Advance Unemployment Insurance Bill

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 5:02 PM

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Sen. Sherrod Brown and Sen. Rob Portman (Photo: U.S. Senate)

A three-month, $6.5 billion extension of emergency unemployment insurance is moving forward in the Senate. Ohio Senator Rob Portman was one of just a handful of Republicans to vote Tuesday to proceed with debate. As Lewis Wallace reports from Ohio Public Radio member station WYSO, around 40 thousand Ohioans already saw their insurance cut off at the end of December.

Both Ohio senators voted Tuesday to move ahead with debate on a three-month, $6.4 billion extension of emergency unemployment insurance. Around 40,000 Ohio residents saw their insurance cut off at the end of December after congressional Republicans left the program out of a last-minute budget deal, and another 128,000 stand to get cut off sometime in 2014.

Emergency unemployment gives people up to 14 extra weeks to look for work after state unemployment expires, and the federal government has been funding those extensions in response to the Great Recession. Democrats argue that the effects of the Recession are still too prominent to pull that lifeline from millions of people.

Debates over economic recovery in Ohio tend to be highly partisan; Democrats argue that Ohio’s recovery is lagging under Republican Governor John Kasich’s leadership, while Republicans tout job growth and tax cuts in recent years.

Beth Rubin with the Greene County department of Job and Family Services, who sees the immediate needs of people who are poor and unemployed every day, has a more moderate view of the recovery.

“I don’t think any of us think we’re ever going to get back to those really good times,” she said Tuesday, “but at the same time, it’s not as bad as it was five years ago.”

By the numbers, Ohio’s recovery has stalled since 2011. Unemployment in the greater Dayton area was at 7.5 percent in November, up from 0.9 percent from a year before. Statewide, there were nearly 40,000 more people out of jobs than the same time a year before, and the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.4 percent.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio was among just six Senate Republicans to vote in favor of debating the unemployment insurance extension on the Senate floor. Republican votes were key to prevent a filibuster in the Senate. Many congressional Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-8th), want any extension to be paid for with a cut.

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