Unemployment benefits extended to 99 weeks for jobless Americans

President Barack Obama yesterday signed the bill that extends unemployment benefits for more than 2.5 million jobless Americans. The legislation passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 272-152 earlier in the day.

The bill extends the cut-off for benefits from June 2 to Nov. 30, and unemployed citizens will continue to receive payments for 73 weeks after that, for a total of 99 weeks of unemployment benefit. The new law works in concert with Home Affordable Unemployment Program, which gives qualified homeowners the ability to borrow up to $50,000 to assist them with their mortgage, provided that they have a reasonable prospect of resuming payments within two years.

In states like Pennsylvania and New York, the back payments should go out next week, officials said. In others, like Nevada and North Carolina, it may take a few weeks for all of those eligible to receive benefits.

Thirty-one House Republicans, about one in six, voted for the measure Thursday, while 10 Democrats opposed it. In my home state of Nevada - which had the highest jobless rate in the nation in June, at 14.2%, for the second consecutive month. The Nevada Congressional delegation's support of the measure was unanimous when Republican Congressman Dean Heller crossed party lines and joined Las Vegas-area Congressional Democrats Dina Titus and Shelley Berkley in voting for the measure. Heller was unsuccessful in a bid to introduce an amendment that would have tapped unused economic stimulus funds to pay for the extension. Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign was the only state official to oppose the measure, in the Senate's earlier vote.

Even with an extension to 99 weeks for most unemployed Americans, will it be enough? U.S. economist Lawrence Souza told HousingWire that the current state of unemployment is not going to be solved overnight. "It will be 2015 when full employment is achieved at 95 to 96% of the workforce," he said.

The estimated cost surrounding the legislation is $34 billion, one reason some in Congress were hesitant to vote it through. But Obama argued that the bill had to be funded via deficit spending because it was an emergency measure to protect 9.5% of the United States' population.
For more information about the bill, click here.

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