Many in Bay Area to lose jobless benefitsBy Josh Richman
By mid-2004, about 53,500 Bay Area workers will have been out of work so long that their unemployment insurance benefits have expired, according to a new report unveiled Tuesday on Capitol Hill by most of the Bay Area's Congressional delegation.
The 11 Democratic lawmakers cited this and other data, from a report prepared at their behest by the House Government Reform Committee's Democratic staff, to renew their call for an extension of those benefits.
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, offered an amendment last month to do just that; surprisingly, it passed with 39 Republicans crossing the aisle to support it. But a similar measure seems stymied in the Senate and appears unwelcome at the White House.
Miller, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, noted Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan last week called extending the benefits "not a bad idea."
Republicans repeatedly have said states still have billions from a 2002 appropriation that they could use to extend the benefits if they see fit. Miller contends that money can't be used in such a way, and several larger states already have spent it all. California now is seeking a U.S. Department of Labor loan to help pay its regular unemployment benefits.
Republicans also have noted Miller's bill appropriates no money for the existing unemployment insurance program, instead creating a parallel program through the Department of Health and Human Services. Miller said he would have been happy to extend the existing program, but Republicans blocked that too.
The report released Tuesday estimates that 12,200 workers in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties will exhaust their benefits by June.
National jobs figures released this month showed a weak labor market, with no net new private-sector jobs created nationwide in February. The overall unemployment rate dropped slightly since its 6.3 percent peak last June, but economists have hypothesized this drop was caused mostly by people giving up looking for work out of frustration.
"We cannot ignore the needs of Americans who are unable to find work," Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, said Tuesday. "And we won't be fooled by overly optimistic observations that the economy is in a 'jobless recovery."'
Copyright ©2004 San Mateo County Times. Published 03/17/2004.