Pension, Unemployment Extensions Joined in House Vote

October 15, 2002 ( - A new pension bill could find its fate wrapped up with a new bill designed to extend unemployment benefits for some workers.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-California) plans to bring the two bills to the House floor today, according to Dow Jones, but their fate is anything but certain.   The pension bill was passed by the House Ways and Means Committee last week in a party line vote (see  Ways & Means OKs Savings Measures ).   Among other things, that bill would increase from 70 1/2 to 75 years the age at which people would be required to begin making withdrawals from their 401(k) and individual retirement accounts.

Somewhat more controversial is Thomas’ unemployment extension bill that would extend unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks in states hit hardest by the economic slowdown.  

The $2.1 billion unemployment extension also would address a quirk in the March benefit extension that stops benefit payments after December 28 regardless of whether an individual’s extra 13 weeks have been exhausted, according to Dow Jones.   About 820,000 unemployed workers would see their benefits prematurely ended if the anomaly isn’t fixed, according to the Ways and Means Committee.

A competing $17 billion package from the Democrats would extend benefits in states with high unemployment rates by 20 weeks and in every other state by 13 weeks.   It also would deal with the benefit anomaly, according to the report.