More than 4,000 Idahoans out of work for months lost their unemployment benefits last week. That number is poised to go up, as the U.S. Senate did not approve extended federal jobless benefits last month. Both of Idaho’s Republican senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, voted against a similar extension in April.
Idaho’s state unemployment insurance program provides benefits for 10 to 26 weeks for jobless workers. That program, funded by a tax on Idaho employers, isn’t facing changes, but a federal program extending those benefits by 28 to 73 weeks expired due to lack of support in the Senate. Idaho joined the federal state extended unemployment benefit program in February of 2009. Since then, unemployed workers have received $19.9 million in federal funds.
Part of the stimulus program approved by Congress last year also added $25 a week to unemployment checks, which netted $77.9 million for jobless Idahoans. No one filing a new unemployment claim will receive the $25 supplemental payment.
Congress could still extend the enhanced federal unemployment benefits. On Monday, Senate Republicans offered a 30-day extension that was rejected by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., according to The Hill.
If lawmakers agree on a plan, some of the 4,000 Idahoans who lost benefits could receive governmental aid, said Josh McKenna, the acting benefits bureau chief for the Idaho Department of Labor. "If Congress reaches an agreement and resumes the extended benefit programs, we'll notify all the people who will be affected," he said. “We’d likely send them something in the mail.”