Unemployment Benefits Extension Grants Emergency Funds Through June

Congress last week passed a contentious unemployment extension bill to provide jobless Americans with 8 more weeks of unemployment benefits. President Obama immediately signed the bill into law Thursday night, according to Politico.

The new law retroactively applies benefits beginning April 5, and expires June 2, 2010, for those who qualify.

The much-debated bill was passed by the Senate in a 59-38 vote, and then passed in the House 289-112.

The latest unemployment figures were released last Friday, and show the nation’s official unemployment rate unchanged at 9.7% in March.

Provisions in the new law will:

  • Retroactively extend UI benefits through June 2.
  • Extend eligibility for the COBRA health insurance 65% subsidy for people who have lost their jobs through May 31.
  • Extend the National Flood Insurance Program authorization through May 31.
  • Extend two temporary improvements to the Small Business Administration’s loan guarantee program: raising the percentage of loan amounts that the SBA can guarantee and allowing SBA to waive or reduce loan fees through May 31.

The bill was subject to much debate leading up to April 5, the date the last emergency extension of unemployment benefits expired. Republicans in the Senate did not wish to support a bill with a $18 billion price tag that might raise the deficit. Democrats countered that such emergency spending is justified as it has a direct impact on the nation’s economy.

In signing the bill into law Thursday night, President Obama praised the Congress members who pushed the bill through, saying “I urge Congress to move quickly to extend these benefits through the end of this year,” and “to move forward on legislation to help small businesses grow and hire and other measures to increase the pace of job growth.”

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