But the twist in the bill regarding pension funding is likely to raise concerns about more burden on taxpayers. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget notes that "underfunding pensions makes it more likely that a company will need a bailout from the federally funded Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation."
Meanwhile, opponents of the emergency jobless benefits program, which pays long-term jobless workers about $300 a month, argued that extended benefits should be phased out now that the job market has improved and the unemployment rate has fallen to 6.7 percent.
But the deal to restore benefits, which still faces a vote by the full Senate and an uncertain fate in the House, can't come soon enough for C.J. Mitchell, 27, of Tri-Cities. Wash., who has been looking for work as a chemical engineer since May, when she lost her job with a government contractor.
She recently applied for a $10-an-hour cashier job at Home Depot. Having spent down about half of her savings, she figures she has two or three more months left to pay the bills, including mortgage payments on a condo she's been unable to sell.
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"I'm stretching every thing as tight as I can," she said. "I've been down to the food bank, and it's such an awful experience to be down there. You see the people who are down there and think, 'I wasn't supposed to be here.'"
The latest deal would extend benefits to Mitchell and other long-term jobless workers for five months and restore payments that were suspended when the program expired.
The measure would also ban payments to anyone who earned at least $1 million last year. More than 3,000 households reporting more than $1 million income collected jobless benefits in 2010, according to a report last year by the Congressional Research Service.
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"There are a lot of good people looking for work, and I am pleased we're finally able to reach a strong, bipartisan consensus to get them some help," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., one of the chief sponsors of the legislation.
While the bill would provide an important lifeline to jobless workers, it could weaken the financial security of millions of retirees who rely on employer-sponsored private pensions.
That's because the bill proposes to pay for the roughly $10 billion cost of restoring jobless benefits by allowing companies to use an accounting gimmick called "smoothing" that would let them make lower contributions to pension funds. Moving less money into pension funds would boost corporate profits, or salaries, which would generate higher taxes, which would pay for the cost of extending jobless benefits.
This is not the first time Congress has raided the private pension fund cookie jar to raise some quick cash. A provision attached to the 2012 federal highway bill, known as MAP-21, cut required minimum pension contributions by $147.5 billion, according to an analysis by benefits consultant Towers Watson.