House Bill Adds To Jobless Benefits In 27 States

House lawmakers have voted to extend unemployment benefits for 13 weeks to people in states where the unemployment rate is at least 8.5 percent. That's about half the states. It affects about 300,000 workers whose benefits would otherwise run out this month. The Senate is working on a similar bill.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

With the unemployment rate higher than it's been in more than two decades, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill extending unemployment benefits in states hit hardest by the recession.

NPR's Audie Cornish reports.

AUDIE CORNISH: The bill sponsor, Washington Democrat Jim McDermott, described unemployment insurance as a thin economic lifeline for America's jobless.

Representative JIM MCDERMOTT (Democrat, Washington): Without the passage of this bill, that thread will break for over one million workers before the end of this year, plunging them and their families into an economic abyss and threatening to reverse the positive signs we're beginning to see in the economy.

CORNISH: McDermott's bill provides another 13 weeks of unemployment checks in states where the jobless rate is more than 8.5 percent. Republicans didn't fight the bill, but Kentucky Representative Geoff Davis criticized the Democrats for the economic stimulus plan and other policies he argues are not working.

Representative GEOFF DAVIS (Republican, Kentucky): It's time to provide much needed help and assistance to the millions of Americans who are struggling in states with outrageous unemployment rates. They should not be made to suffer for the failure of this administration's policies that have failed to create the promised jobs.

CORNISH: But Democrats countered that while the economy is moving towards recovery, this bill will help families in the states where jobs are scarce. The cost of the legislation is roughly $1.4 billion. That would be offset by extending the federal unemployment tax and improving the reporting requirements for employers to prevent overpayment. Next, the Senate takes up the issue.

Audie Cornish, NPR News, the Capitol.

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