State officials: Senate jobless bill is flawed

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 19, 2014 at 4:12 pm •  Published: March 19, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bipartisan Senate legislation to renew benefits for the long-term unemployed is unworkable, House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday as aides circulated a letter from state officials envisioning a series of difficulties they would encounter in administering the measure.

The speaker did not say flatly that the House would shelve the bill if it clears the Senate, leaving open the possibility of a future compromise. But a blog posting by his aides quoted the Ohio Republican as saying there was "no evidence that the bill being rammed through the Senate by (Majority) Leader (Harry) Reid" would help create more private sector jobs.

In response, a spokesman for Reid, Adam Jentleson, said the legislation is bipartisan and the concerns expressed by state officials can be resolved.

"We look forward to Speaker Boehner coming to the table to find solutions," Jentleson said, adding it is "hard to imagine Speaker Boehner simply walking away from the thousands of people in Ohio who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and need this lifeline to make ends meet while they continue to look for work."

In their letter, the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, which administers unemployment benefit programs, said it has "significant concerns about the implementation of the legislation."

The letter added that "some states have indicated they might decide such changes are not feasible in the short time available, and therefore would consider not signing the U.S. Department of Labor's agreement to operate the program."

Among other issues, the letter said most states have outdated computer systems that make it hard to implement any changes to the program quickly, and it's not clear how states would pay for administrative costs if federal funds cannot be spent to determine eligibility.

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