Senate moves forward in unemployment benefit battle

Millions of jobless Americans could receive retroactive unemployment benefits with the help of legislation currently in the Senate.

The Senate voted narrowly Tuesday to advance a temporary extension of unemployment benefits to more than one million jobless Americans.

Thousands in northern Michigan are impacted by the loss of unemployment benefits.

The bill would retroactively restore federal aid payments to 1.3 million unemployed Americans, which expired at the end of December, leaving many people dire situations.

â??I drew unemployment for about a year and a half and lost that,â?? said Timothy Kelley of Traverse City. â??I lost everything else I had, and then became homeless. I'm here in TC trying to get back on my feet.â??

Senators in Washington are one step closer to passing an extension to unemployment benefits.

Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow released this statement: â??I'm glad several Republicans joined Democrats in approving this today. This is a critical lifeline for families out of work through no fault of their own.â??

Republican Terry Lynn Land, whoâ??s vying for Senator Carl Levinâ??s open seat in November, echoed Stabenowâ??s sentiments saying she also supports the extension to those "actively seeking gainful employment."

People in northern Michigan agreed that unemployment benefits should be for those truly seeking work.

â??If you're putting in applications, and trying to look, yeah, you should be able to,â?? said Barbara Lentz of Traverse City. â??The bills keep coming.â??

â??Nowadays it's really hard to get a job. I walk around like this and get profiled a lot,â?? said Kelley.

As it stands, benefits are cut off after 47 weeks. Kelley suggested offering at least a year â??to give someone even more time to get a job.â??

Others said when the program started, the intentions were good and the need was great, but times have changed.

â??I think it's gone overboard,â?? said Wendy Davidson of Kewadin. â??I wish there was a way to help people get back to work sooner.

Davidson said extending benefits beyond 47 weeks isn't what she wants to see happen.

â??I don't believe we want to go there, but I think we're going to have to to keep people to have food on the table. We've got to fix the system. If we're going to wait until it breaks, people are going to be in big trouble.â??

The issue still has to go before the entire Senate. For now a formal debate can begin on the legislation.

According to President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, poverty has dropped from nearly 26 percent in 1967 to 16 percent in 2012.