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Senator introduces bill to extend jobless benefits

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A Democrat-sponsored bill to extend unemployment benefits through 2011 was introduced in the Senate Monday, but it is likely to face stiff opposition from Republicans.

The bill's sponsor, Senator Max Baucus, D-Mont., said in a statement that the proposed legislation would reauthorize benefits for nearly 800,000 out-of-work Americans who are about to exhaust their benefits next week.

Should Congress extend the deadline to file for up to 99 weeks in unemployment benefits?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Not sure

The $56.4 billion measure would also extend benefits for 2 million more Americans facing the same fate by the end of the year, he said.

"Unemployment benefits are the only lifeline many workers in Montana and across the nation have left in this tough economy," said Baucus. "These benefits help millions of Americans put food on the table and roofs over their heads -- pumping money into our economy and helping to create jobs."

However, the bill could face heavy resistance from Republican lawmakers, who are reluctant to pass measures that increase the nation's deficit. The federal government has already spent $109 billion on jobless benefits over the past three years.

Earlier this month, the House failed to pass a bill that would have given the unemployed three more months to file for extended jobless benefits.

The $12.5 billion House bill would have extended the deadline to file for federal unemployment benefits to Feb. 28, sparing 4 million people from falling off the rolls. The deadline is currently Nov. 30.

Federal jobless payments, 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.

Congress has extended the deadline to file those applications four times in the past year. The last jobless benefits extension -- which lasted six months and cost $34 billion -- faced a lot of opposition on deficit-conscious Capitol Hill before it finally passed in mid-July.

Roughly 14.8 million Americans are unemployed, with about 6.2 million of them out of work for at least 27 weeks. About 8.5 million people are collecting unemployment insurance.

As the nation's lackluster economic recovery grinds on, a growing number of the jobless are exhausting their benefits. Precise numbers are hard to come by, but estimates show that about 3.5 million people have fallen off the rolls, though some of them have landed work.

-- CNNMoney.com senior writer Tami Luhby contributed to this report.  To top of page

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