Congress approves extension of jobless benefits

Congress quickly passed legislation Nov. 20 to extend unemployment benefits through December and into 2009 for about 1.1 million unemployed people in the U.S. whose benefits were running out, according to USA Today. The measure is estimated to cost about $6 billion.

The White House previously had opposed broader legislation containing the benefits extension but urged approval of the new version. The vote followed a report that jobless claims had reached a 16-year high and more than 10 million U.S. workers are unemployed. More than 1.2 million jobs have been lost this year, and the civilian jobless rate is 6.5 percent—a 14-year high.

"The numbers cry out for an extension of unemployment insurance and strong stimulus package now rather than later," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) before the Senate approved the legislation.

The legislation would provide seven additional weeks of payments to people who have exhausted their benefits. In states where the unemployment rate is higher than 6 percent, those receiving unemployment benefits would receive 13 more weeks in addition to 26 weeks of regular benefits. Benefit checks in the U.S. average about $300 per week.

Congress has enacted federally funded extensions seven times during the past 50 years. In June, the House voted to extend jobless benefits for three more months, but the bill stalled in the Senate.

Date : 11/24/2008