Jobless extension stalls in Congress |

Jobless extension stalls in Congress

Unless Congress finds a way to convince Republicans to change their votes and extend federal emergency unemployment compensation programs, some 19,600 Nevadans will lose unemployment benefits by Dec. 11.

That number will rise to nearly 24,000 a week after that as another 4,300 claimants exhaust their benefits and continue until fully 65,000 of the 109,000 on unemployment in the Silver State are without benefit checks by March.

Senate Republicans on Tuesday rejected a request for a yearlong benefits extension.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., charged that those Republicans “are yanking the safety net out from under millions of Nevadans and Americans who are continuing to look for work in this difficult economy.”

“At the same time that they deny assistance for out-of-work Americans, Republicans are pushing for more tax breaks for millionaires and CEO’s who send American jobs overseas,” Reid said in a statement following the vote.

Republicans have refused to support the extension of benefits unless Democrats agree to take money from somewhere else to pay the cost.

In a House of Representative vote on the extensions a week ago, Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., broke with the GOP to vote for the extensions. That measure also failed to get enough support to pass.

Both state Employment Security Division officials and national observers say the battle is far from over, that negotiations are continuing in Congress to find a solution. They have until Dec. 18 when Congress is scheduled to adjourn for the Christmas break.

“They’re going to have to do something one way or another,” said Nevada’s Deputy Employment Security Administrator Kelly Karch. “We’ve been watching this very closely because it affects us in a major way.”

Theresa Nicks, program chief for the division, said if none of the federal extension tiers are reinstated, the maximum number of weeks anyone can receive benefits in Nevada will drop from a high of 99 weeks to 26 weeks.

But she urged recipients to continue to file weekly claims, saying if Congress finds a compromise and approves extensions, ESD will be able to pay them quickly and, possibly, retroactively.

The first deadline passed Nov. 28 with the end of Extended Unemployment Compensation tiers. But she said ESD can move those claimants to its State Extended Benefits program and get them two more weekly paychecks.

But the state program expires Dec. 11, which will end benefits for 19,600 individuals. On Dec. 18, she said, an additional 4,300 claimants will exhaust benefits, raising the total without weekly checks to 23,900.

By Jan. 8, she said more than half the 65,000 Nevadans receiving extended benefits will be without a weekly check and, if Congress won’t act, all of them will lose benefits by the end of March.

At that point, she said, only new applicants will get any benefits from ESD and then only for a maximum 26 weeks of basic state support.