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Rep. Levin on unemployment extension: "It must be done"

Sander Levin
Sander Levin

Michigan Congressman Sander Levin says Congress should cancel its winter recess if members can’t reach a deal to extend unemployment benefits.

Right now, the federal government supplements state unemployment programs to offer assistance for the long-term unemployed--up to 53 weeks of emergency benefits since the country slid into recession in 2008.

But those benefits will lapse January 1 if Congress doesn’t act this month.

Levin, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, says if that happens, a historically unprecedented number of people will run out of benefits.

“If we don’t act next month, over a million people in this country will lose unemployment benefits,” Levin says. “By February, it will be two million.”

“And that’s unconscionable. So we have to act. And there’s been a stalemate,” said Levin.

The unemployment extension has gotten tied up with other hot-button issues in Congress, such as whether to extend current payroll tax cuts, and a proposed oil pipeline between Canada and the U.S.

Some Republicans also want to cut long-term benefits back by as many as 40 weeks. That includes Michigan Representative Dave Camp, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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