Unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of this weekend, and 15,000 more Illinoisans will be left without a safety net every week unless federal unemployment insurance extensions are reauthorized.
Benefits were on the brink of expiration at the end of 2009, until Congress passed a two-month extension as part of a defense spending bill. That extension will run out at the end of February.
The House passed a similar extension on Thursday afternoon, but Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky has repeatedly objected to the Senate's taking up the measure. Because it would require so-called "unanimous consent" to bring the bill to the Senate floor immediately, a single Senator can block it; with Bunning's opposition, it seems unlikely that the Senate will see the bill before the current benefits expire.
Aware of the gravity of the situation for his constituents, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin repeatedly begged Bunning to drop his objection, reminding him that he had bragged about Congress' previous extension, which passed 98-0. But the Kentuckian reportedly responded: "Tough sh*t."
Tough indeed, at least for the 11% of unemployed Illinoisans who will find it that much harder to put food on the table starting March 1.
Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most. Learn more