Manchin, Rockefeller back extension

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., expressed their support of the Senate’s approval of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation extension Tuesday.

Manchin fielded questions during a media telephone conference Tuesday regarding the Senate’s 60-37 vote on the issue.

“We are looking at a 90-day extension,” said Manchin. “This is a bi-partisan legislation and something that I think we will be able to agree on.”

Federal unemployment insurance coverage expired on Dec. 28. The House of Representatives has yet to vote on the extension.

Manchin said one of the biggest issues in the bill is the elimination of dual eligibility for benefits.

“Essentially, if you get hurt on the job, you won’t be able to draw both unemployment and disability after this extension,” said Manchin. “I think it’s fair and I think that most Americans feel that it is fair, as well.”

When asked whether or not he felt the extension could be used as an excuse not to work rather than a motivation to find work, Manchin said that he felt the need for the extension outweighed the fear of exploitation of it.

“I hear both sides of that,” he said. “I’ve talked to people from all over the state and the vast majority are telling me that if they could just have a little more time they could find work to match their skill set. I think the question we have to ask ourselves is ‘are we doing enough to help you get work?’ We are not looking at the whole picture.”

Emergency Unemployment Compensation divides its users into four tiers. Tier one covers users for an additional 14 weeks. Tiers two through four provide additional benefits for an allotted amount of weeks based on the unemployment rate of the respective state.

Manchin also talked about his goals in the Senate for 2014, which include Congress coming to grips with the finances of the country, supporting energy policy that allows the U.S. to be energy independent, creating jobs and getting the troops out of Afghanistan.

Rockefeller said the extension will be used to “help those who are trying get back on their feet,” in a Facebook post Tuesday.

“Today, I voted to extend emergency unemployment insurance for the nearly 7,000 West Virginians and more than 1 million Americans who are trying to get by without this vital program as they look for work,” he said. “While our economy continues to improve, it should be a top priority to put forward sensible policies that can both stimulate growth and provide critical support to people as they pursue job opportunities.

“Supporting West Virginians while they are actively looking for work is a moral obligation and Congress never should have let emergency unemployment insurance expire,” he continued. “Without this safety net, families are now having to make even more impossible choices, like deciding how to heat their homes, put food on the table and pay for a doctor’s visit – all while keeping up a full-time job search, which can also be costly.”

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