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Unemployment Benefits Get a Boost From Senate

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By Minara El-Rahman on November 05, 2009 1:00 PM

The Senate voted to give unemployed Americans some relief with an extension of time for unemployment benefits as well as an $8,000 homebuyer tax credit.

This was after weeks of debating over the issue. The legislation passed with a vote of 98 to 0.

According to CNN, "[t]he closely watched legislation would extend jobless benefits in all states by 14 weeks. Those that live in states with unemployment greater than 8.5% would receive an additional six weeks. The proposal would be funded by extending a longstanding federal unemployment tax on employers through June 30, 2011.

The measure would apply to those whose benefits will run out by Dec. 31, which is nearly two million people, according to Senate estimates. Those whose checks have already stopped would be able to reapply for another round."

There are 15 million unemployed Americans. Millions of these Americans depend on unemployment benefits.

National Unemployment Law Project estimates that 7,000 unemployed Americans run out of their unemployment benefits every day.

And unemployment numbers are growing. Unemployment hit 9.8% in September and is expected to be larger in October.

In spite of these alarming numbers, there are legislators who warn that this is the last time unemployment benefits will be extended: "The public needs to ... know, this is the last extension," said Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

The home buyer tax credit is a little more controversial. It would extend an $8,000 homebuyer credit which was set to expire at the end of the month.

CNN  reported that "The credit, however, has also posed many problems. Critics say it's a waste of money because most of those claiming the credit would have bought homes anyway.

It's also been the target of fraud. Some 74,000 people claimed more than $500 million in credits even though they may not be first-time homeowners, according to Treasury officials. And more than 580 children, including some as young as 4-years-old, have claimed the credit."

What This Means For You

If you are unemployed, make sure to check when your benefits run out. You could be eligible for the 14 week extension available for all states. If you live in a state with unemployment greater than 8.5%, then you could get more time to get back on your feet.

If your benefits have already run out, make sure to reapply if you are still unemployed.

When you file for your taxes, ask your accountant if you would be eligible for a homebuyer tax credit. According to the IRS, some 1.4 million tax returns qualify for the credit.

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