Governor Deval Patrick said this morning that he would urge US Senator Scott Brown to vote for extending the federal emergency unemployment program, which expired yesterday, raising the specter that as many as 60,000 Massachusetts residents could lose benefits later this month.
"This is incredibly important," Patrick said, calling opposition to extending the program "outrageous."
"This is a question of character, of national character, and I hope that Scott Brown understands it that way and does what needs to be done," he said during the "Ask the Governor" segment on WTKK-FM's "Jim and Margery Show."
The program needs to be reauthorized by lawmakers in Washington to keep the assistance coming for jobless workers eligible to collect checks for up to 99 weeks. But partisan and philosophical differences are stalling action in the Senate.
Brown yesterday blocked a Democratic proposal to extend the benefits, offering his own plan instead, only to have his effort blocked.
Democrats are proposing a $56 billion bill to continue extensions through the end of next year. They say such benefits have traditionally been viewed by Congress as emergency spending and not subject to rules requiring costs to be offset by savings in other programs, the Globe reports today.
Republicans, however, don't want Congress to add to record deficits. Brown yesterday proposed extending the benefits by paying for them with funds authorized by Congress but not spent by federal agencies.
"Are we going to do it from the bank account, or are we going to put it on the credit card?" Brown said on the Senate floor last night. He added, "I'll use the bank account. Let's use money that's already in the system and put it to good use immediately."
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