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Shaheen Key In Unemployment Benefit Extension

Senate Passes Bill To Extend Unemployment Benefits

CONCORD, N.H. -- The Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to provide the jobless with up to 20 weeks in additional unemployment benefits with New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen as one of the leaders behind the legislation.

If the bill passes the House as expected, it will mean thousands of people without jobs can continue to collect unemployment.

"At a time when families are struggling to make ends meet, we gave those families some help to keep fighting," Shaheen said.

With enactment, the jobless in the hardest-hit states could receive up to 99 weeks of benefits, which average about $300 a week. That would well exceed the previous record of 65 weeks during the 1970s.

The $24 billion bill, passed 98-0, also provides tax relief for struggling businesses and expands a first-time homebuyer tax credit to include a far larger pool of people entering the dormant housing market.

It comes to the rescue of more than 1 million out-of-work people who will run out of benefits by the end of the year. Everyone will receive 14 weeks of additional benefits, while those in states with unemployment rates of 8.5 percent and above get six weeks on top of that.

As many as 500 Granite Staters ran out of unemployment benefits in the past week and thousands more would follow. State officials said this bill could help the unemployed get through the winter and, hopefully, to a better job market.

"We would have had roughly 3,000 people that were without any benefits at the end of the year, and it could have increased to as many as 10,000 by the end of March," said Darrell Gates, deputy commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security.

Gates said the bill's passage would be good news for about 27,000 people now claiming unemployment benefits in New Hampshire.

This follows a hiccup with the direct deposit benefits for nearly 5,000 Granite Staters this week. The state said a computer rejected a file that would have deposited $1.6 million worth of benefits into bank accounts.

Now, those unemployment benefits are arriving a day later than expected. No other direct deposits or paper checks are affected.

"The direct deposit, while it's usually there the next day, can take upwards of three days to be there," Gates said.

Employment security officials said the incident was the first glitch with the new direct deposit system since it went online two months ago. Officials continue to investigate the problem to prevent it from reoccurring.