Congress extends jobless benefits

By Tami Luhby, senior writer

NEW YORK ( -- Lawmakers voted Thursday to push back the deadline to file for extended unemployment benefits until June 2, a measure President Obama promptly signed into law.

The measure restores federal unemployment benefits to more than 200,000 jobless Americans who started losing them on April 5 after lawmakers let that deadline pass. Checks would be retroactive to that date.

Federal unemployment benefits, which last up to 73 weeks, kick in after the state-funded 26 weeks of coverage expire. These federal benefits are divided into tiers, and the jobless must apply each time they move into a new tier.

The bill extends several other provisions until May 31, including: The federal COBRA health insurance subsidy; the National Flood Insurance Program and the copyright license used by satellite television providers. It also prevents a 21% reduction in Medicare payment rates for doctors from taking place until May 31.

Though the measure generally enjoys bi-partisan support, Republicans in the Senate have resisted extending unemployment benefits, saying the benefit must be paid for.

Some 11.2 million people now receive unemployment insurance, with 6 million of them collecting extended benefits, according to the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group.

Though the economy is slowly improving, the unemployment rate remains stuck at 9.7% and the average duration of unemployment is 31.2 weeks.

Lawmakers had already approved two short-term extensions of the filing deadline since late December. Both the House and the Senate also have passed bills that push back the deadline to file for extended benefits until later in the year, but those measures need to be reconciled. To top of page

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