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May 28, 2003
Congress Passes Extension to Jobless Benefits Program
Congress approved last week legislation that would extend, by seven months, a federal emergency aid program for unemployed workers, USA Today reports.

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If the president signs the measure, jobless workers who exhaust their state unemployment benefits would receive an additional 13 weeks of federal aid. Unemployed workers in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania would receive 26 weeks of aid because those states have a higher unemployment rate.

The House passed the new legislation Thursday. The Senate followed with a unanimous vote on Friday. The current program expires on May 31. Congress approved the current program in January.

The newspaper notes that Republicans and Democrats have been jarring over unemployment benefits. Democrats urged Congress to pass a more generous program that would have provided 26 weeks of benefits and expanded eligibility to workers who exhaust their state and federal benefits.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, said a $350 billion tax cut, also approved by the Senate Friday, would not help unemployed Americans.

"This body voted for a tax bill today that provides billions for the wealthiest and not a cent for unemployed workers - not one dime, not one nickel, not one penny for those hardworking men and women who are suffering most from the economic crisis," said Kennedy.

The newspaper notes that about 8.8 million workers are unemployed and the jobless rate is 6 percent.

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