As Congress enters the final stage of an agonizing slog to reauthorize unemployment benefits, the 2.5 million long-term jobless who missed checks because of congressional dithering want to know: How soon are we going to get our money?
There's no good answer.
"Once the President signs the bill, states will move as quickly as possible to resume Emergency Unemployment Compensation payments, but it will not happen overnight," Rich Hobbie, who heads the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, said in a statement to HuffPost. "Because the program has lapsed for over a month, state workforce agencies need to ensure that claimants qualify for all retroactive payments. In addition, the time it takes will vary from state to state because states use various technologies, some of which are quite antiquated."
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats spent Wednesday dueling over which party is wasting the most time. Republicans, sore from the other side's name-calling -- earlier in the day the White House said GOP delay tactics would cause '30 more hours of suffering' -- eagerly seized on news that members of House Democratic leadership would be attending a birthday fundraiser Wednesday evening for Rep. Jim Clyburn (R-S.C.).
"How will Washington Democrats look themselves in the face tomorrow morning if -- after using Americans who are struggling to find work as a political bludgeon -- they skip out on their responsibilities tonight to party with lobbyists and raise campaign cash?" asked Michael Steel, an aide to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).
House Democrats countered that the party's not holding up the bill. Because the Senate won't vote on final passage until mid evening, the bill wouldn't make it onto the House floor for its final-final vote until after midnight.
"Are you serious?" said Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in an email response regarding Steel's comment. "The Senate hasn't passed it yet. It takes 4-5 hours to go through rules, debate, floor and final passage. House Democrats passed UI 7 weeks ago and now all of a sudden Republicans are concerned about the plight of the unemployed? Give me a break. It will be signed into law and it will be clear Republicans were the ones responsible for pain and suffering they caused families all across America."
Clyburn spokeswoman Kristie Greco had a similar response: "Really? The spokesperson for House Republicans, the group that contributed to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the loss of 8 million American jobs, and delayed the extension of unemployment benefits to those out-of-work Americans for 7 weeks, is now fighting for working families?"
Even if the House voted on Wednesday, like Rich Hobbie said, the checks aren't going out overnight.
David Smith, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, told HuffPost he couldn't say how soon unemployment claimants who missed checks will be paid. "We will file all claims as expeditiously as possible," he said. "The most paramount thing is to get this money into hands of claimants as quickly and as efficiently as possible. We do ask all claimants to be patient."
Norm Isotalo of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency told HuffPost, "We're ready to go ... We have teams of staff ready to begin processing these claims." But he couldn't say how quickly payments would be distributed.
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