Friday, April 16, 2010

Obama signs extension of jobless benefits :-D,0,5723634.story

By Richard Simon
April 16, 2010

Reporting from Washington
President Obama signed an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed Thursday night that will allow those whose aid expired to apply retroactively.

When Congress passed the measure earlier in the day, it ended, at least for now, a partisan stalemate that highlighted election-year differences over federal spending.

The Senate passed the $18-billion measure, 59 to 38, with the support of 54 Democrats, three Republicans and two independents. Every other Republican opposed it; the other three Democrats were absent.

Hours later, the House passed the bill, 289 to 112.

The measure extends jobless aid through June 2. Democrats, anxious about high unemployment in an election year, are working on separate legislation to extend benefits through the end of the year.

Obama urged them to do so and said, in a statement: "In these tough economic times, it is more critical than ever to bring relief to Americans who are working every day to find a job, and families that are struggling to make ends meet."

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About 212,000 people lost benefits when Congress failed to act before the expiration date, but the measure Obama signed extends the aid retroactively.

"If we do not pass this bill this week, another 200,000 Americans could lose their benefits," Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said during debate.

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Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said extending the benefits, which average $335 a week, was not only the humane thing to do but would speed economic recovery by giving money to people who need it most and will spend it right away.

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The bill also extends COBRA health insurance subsidies and federal flood insurance and restores Medicare payments to doctors, who were about to absorb a 21% reduction in payments.

First-time claims for jobless benefits rose by 24,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 484,000, the highest since late February

More than 11 million jobless workers are collecting some form of unemployment benefits, including nearly 5.7 million receiving extensions, according to the National Employment Law Project.


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