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May 20, 2003
Jobless Benefits Extension Expires Soon

A federal aid program that provides unemployed workers with 13 to 26 additional weeks of jobless benefits is set to expire on May 31. The program covers workers who have exhausted their state benefits.

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For jobless workers facing an anemic hiring environment, it's a time of worry as they wait to see how Congress acts, USA Today reports. Democrats in Congress have pushed for an extension to the aid. Senate Republicans are expected to offer a short extension to the program, according to the newspaper.

In April, the unemployment rate jumped back up to 6 percent. The number of people unemployed for more than six months has reached the highest level in 20 years and record numbers of workers are exhausting their jobless benefits, according to the newspaper.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and other lawmakers are advocating for an expansion of the federal-state unemployment system to provide more generous benefits to more people, but so far their efforts have come up short, the newspaper reports.

Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif., says that he has not ruled out an extension of aid, but he contends that an end of benefits can sometimes provide an incentive for people to find work.

"The data would seem to indicate that some individuals, when they begin to come to the end of the unemployment period, that ... all of a sudden there is a major increase in those who are finding jobs," Herger tells USA Today. "There is a lot of work we can do."

The newspaper notes that last month Congress approved a measure that provides laid-off workers in the airline industry an additional 26 weeks of federal aid if they exhaust their state benefits.



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