Federal Jobless Program Set for Renewal

May 23, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Jobless Americans who have had their state benefits run out will apparently now be able to rely on a helping hand from Uncle Sam after all.

That’s because the US House of Representatives approved a measure extending the federal Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation Program that was set to expire on Saturday, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The bill is expected to easily sail through the Senate Friday.

The program provides an extra 13 weeks of benefits to jobless workers who have exhausted payments from their states with those in six high unemployment states – Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania – eligible for a total of 26 weeks of federal benefits.

Year-end 2003 costs are expected to run $5.9 billion. If Congress had not acted before scattering for the Memorial Day recess, each week after that some 80,000 people would have begun exhausting state jobless benefits.The federal program was already extended once in January after Congress received widespread criticism for recessing for the holiday season without acting to extend the expiring program.

The move comes as initial claims for unemployment benefits rose last week.The unemployment rate is at 6%, an eight-year high. The US Department of Labor reported that new benefit claims rose by 7,000 to 428,000 in the week ended May 17 See   DoL: Midwest Tornadoes Storm Through Job Market).  That was the 14th week that new claims exceeded the 400,000 level, a longer stretch than during the recession of 2001, economist Steven Wood at Insight Economics LLC told the Journal. Economists consider the 400,000 claims level an indicator of a still-anemic job market.