Heller breaks with GOP over jobless benefits | NevadaAppeal.com

Heller breaks with GOP over jobless benefits

SANDRA CHEREB
Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Dean Heller broke with House Republicans on Thursday to support extending emergency jobless benefits that could expire at the end of the month for thousands of Nevadans.

Democrats brought a bill to the floor under fast-track rules that would have extended benefits for three months. The measure was supported by a 258-154 majority but fell short of the two-thirds needed for passage.

Heller was one of 21 Republicans who joined with Democrats in favor of the measure Thursday.

He said he supports extending jobless benefits but advocates doing so in a way that wouldn’t add to the deficit. The unemployed shouldn’t be held accountable for unsuccessful economic policies, Heller said.

“It is not their fault that the economic policies of the past two years have failed to bring jobs to Nevada,” he said in a statement made on the floor and issued from his Washington, D.C., office.

Nevada’s Democratic Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus also voted for the bill.

“People through no fault of their own – they’re not spoiled, they’re not lazy, they work every day of their life – they’ve got no job because the economy is so bad,” Berkley said. “If we do not do this today, 27,000 Nevada families will have no way to put food on their families’ tables. Their children will do without.”

Republicans criticized the method used to bring the measure to a vote, saying it denied them a chance to try to offset the $12.5 billion cost.

Nevada’s unemployment rate has been the highest in the nation since May and remains a record 14.4 percent. The state’s monthly jobless report for October is due to be released next week.

The bill voted on Thursday would have continued benefits through the holiday season to the end of February. The average weekly benefit in Nevada is $300.

When the last extension expired June 2, it took seven weeks before Congress passed another bill to continue benefits, and about three weeks after that for the state agency to restart issuing benefits to all qualified.

About 10,600 Nevadans now receiving state extended benefits would be cut off by mid-December if Congress doesn’t extend benefits beyond Nov. 30, said Mae Worthey, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

Several tiers of extended benefits have been approved since the recession began, and about 4,300 people each week would be phased out when they reach the end of the tier they currently participate in, Worthey said.

About 109,000 people in Nevada currently receive benefits. Of those, 44,000 are in the regular, 26-week program and 65,000 are in one of the extended benefit programs.