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Legislative Update for the New Year


Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Payroll Tax Reduction At the last moment, in December, Congress passed legislation continuing unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed and the reduction in payroll taxes paid by workers. However, this legislation continues UI and the Payroll Tax benefit only until February 29, 2012. 

A Conference Committee has been named to work on a bill to extend the two-month provisions throughout 2012. Members of the Committee are:

Senate Democrats:

Max Baucus (MT)

Jack Reed (RI)

Ben Cardin (MD)

Bob Casey (PA)


Senate Republicans:

Crapo (ID)

Barrasso (WY)

Kyl (AZ)


House Democrats:

Schwartz (PA)

Levin (MI)

Becerra (CA)

Van Hollen (MD)

Waxman (CA)

House Republicans:

Brady (TX)

Hayworth (NY)

Reed (NY)

Camp (MI)

Ellmers (NC)

Price (GA)

Upton (MI)

Walden (OR)


The conference committee will focus on H.R. 3630, the “Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act” that was the basis for the debate in the House and Senate last year, and will try to come to a compromise bill to extend Unemployment Insurance , Payroll Tax cuts, and other provisions through 2012.

The House version of H.R. 3630 (passed the House in mid-December) contains harsh elements particularly affecting lower wage and older laid-off workers. 

  • It denies UI benefits to people who lack a high school diploma (or GED) unless they are enrolled in GED classes. This is problematic because:
    • Nearly half of UI recipients are over 45 years of age
    • Funding for career, technical, and adult education has declined by 23 percent from the 2006 level and programs for the required education have long waiting lists, which have doubled in recent years
    • Many states have eliminated or severely cut back their funding for such programs
    • Most workers without a high school or equivalency are among the lowest paid
    • Payment into UI by employers is levied on the first $7,000 of wages, many employers pay lower wages to compensate for this.  Thus, there is a larger burden for those receiving  the lowest wages than on workers paid higher wages.
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