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Jobless Benefits Will Expire without Congressional Action

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 24, 2009 11:50 AM

Congress better move their seasonal gift giving along, because without action, around 1 million laid off workers will see their federal unemployment benefits end right after the holidays. Although a new law was passed on November 6th, extending federal unemployment benefits an additional 14 weeks for workers who had already exhausted state and federal limits, these new extensions will end on December 31, unless the program is renewed by congressional action.

The numbers of people affected are staggering. About 9 million people receive unemployment benefits, 5 million on first stage state programs, and around 4 million in federal extensions. States with the highest unemployment figures like Michigan and Nevada will clearly be the hardest hit if benefits end. If Congress does not renew the programs for 2010, those currently receiving federal benefits will continue to receive money until the end of that stage, but then will drop off the old proverbial cliff and not advance to a new stage of benefits.

While Congress should be aware of the dire needs of job hunters, there are no guarantees it will act. "There are six people looking for every available job, and these payments are enabling people to pay their mortgages and put food on the table," said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash). But also according to McDermott, renewing all the federally funded benefits for 2010 would cost in the neighborhood of $80 billion. Regardless, he hopes to see benefits renewed.

With health care taking up much of the time and attention of Congress and their constituents alike, some attention and quick action will be necessary to keep those LED lights on through the holidays and into the new year.

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