Unemployment insurance is critical to those who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are diligently searching for work but are unable to find it. That is why I recently voted to proceed to debate a bill that would extend federal emergency unemployment compensation benefits for three months, as the president requested. (Editor’s note: Collins ultimately voted against a Senate bill that would have extended benefits for 11 months.)

When it became clear that this proposal would not have enough support, I worked, in good faith, with a group of colleagues on a proposal that could pass both the Senate and the House with bipartisan support. Our plan includes a three-month extension of the temporary federal long-term unemployment insurance program; a repeal of the recent unfair cuts in the military retiree cost-of-living adjustment included in December’s budget agreement; and offsets that would responsibly pay for both provisions. I am hopeful we can work together to move this proposal forward.

The ongoing debate about unemployment compensation, however, shines a spotlight on the underlying problem: extremely sluggish job growth in our still lagging economy. A three-month extension of emergency unemployment benefits would give Congress time to examine ways to redesign the federal unemployment insurance program to better incorporate job training programs to help people find jobs in fields where they do exist.

I have met with business owners in Maine who have jobs available but cannot find qualified and trained workers to fill these vacant positions.

Putting people back to work is my No. 1 goal. We simply must do everything we can to embrace policies that will help employers grow, succeed and create jobs.

Sen. Susan CollinsR-Maine