With Congress apparently close to a budget agreement that does not include an extension of federal unemployment insurance benefits, Gov. Jerry Brown urged House and Senate leaders to approve an extension.
"When these benefits were first authorized, the national unemployment rate was only 5.6 percent," Brown said in a letter Thursday. "The national rate is still 7 percent and 36 states, including California, have even higher unemployment rates than when the extension benefits were originally authorized."
Brown's letter comes as the Senate prepares to act this week on a bill that would avert a government shutdown next year. The bill does not include an extension of unemployment benefits scheduled to expire at the end of the month, frustrating many Democrats.
Brown said more than 214,000 Californians are currently collecting federal unemployment extension benefits and that they "will suffer irreparable harm if these federal benefits are allowed to expire."
Brown also complained more broadly about what he called "the severe federal underfunding" of California's unemployment insurance program, where mistakes in a computer upgrade delayed benefits for thousands of unemployed Californians this fall.
"In 2013, California's federal UI administrative grant was $128 million less than what was needed to pay benefits timely and accurately," Brown wrote. "The continuous funding shortfalls result in benefit delays and prevent the state from providing timely and accurate UI services to unemployed workers suffering a financial hardship."
PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at an event in Oakland on Nov. 1, 2013. Associated Press/Marcio Jose Sanchez