Merkley: Jobless Benefits Extension Crucial

BEND, Ore.
— The extension of long-term jobless benefits took a big step toward reality Tuesday, as time is running out for more than 2.5 million unemployed Americans who rely on them to survive.

A bill that would extend the deadline to file for those benefits until November was approved by the Senate on a 60-40 vote.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said whether the bill passes or not affects a large number of Oregonians.

“We now have 40,000 Oregonians who will be losing their benefits at the end of this month, if the extension is not completed,” Merkley told NewsChannel 21 by satellite after Tuesday’s preliminary vote, to be followed by a formal vote Wednesday.

Residents like Steven Coutoumanos are fearful of losing those benefits. He says he relies on them between his temporary jobs.

“If I wasn’t able to get the benefits, I’d probably be homeless,” said Coutoumanos.

Merkley said not extending the benefits should never have been an option.

“That’s 40,000 families that have been unnecessarily put through a real kind of psychological challenge of not knowing if they can rely on those benefits to be there,” Merkley said.