Senate clears hurdle to renew unemployment benefits extension

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. The US Senate cleared a hurdle Tuesday morning in order to extend federal unemployment benefits for those who have been out of work for 26 weeks.

They didn't vote on the actual bill, but did end a debate so the benefits-extension bill can be voted on likely later on this week. It's a step in the right direction for those in Colorado who stopped receiving weekly checks.

The benefits-extension program began back when the recession was at its worst, and the government sent them a lifeline: at one point allowing up to 99 weeks of unemployment.

That number since dipped to 73 weeks, and this will be the first time since 2008 congress hasn't extended.

"The idea behind extending benefits is to help those who are long-term unemployed, or unable to find employment within the regular 26 weeks of their benefit," said Suzie Miller of the Mesa County Workforce Center.

This would give them additional time to find and secure employment.
According to an estimate done by Ways and Means, of the 1.3 million out-of-work Americans that lost their unemployment insurance on December 28th, just over 20,000 of those were from Colorado, and 812 came from Mesa County.

"That 812 encompassed all those who were currently on extended benefits and those that were within five weeks of their initial claims ending."

The bill needs to make it through the Republican-majority house before emergency extensions come back into play. Those who were in the middle of their extended benefits period when it ran out after Christmas could receive reimbursements if and when a deal gets done.

"We don't know exactly what that will look like. From previous experience when it was renewed last year, those who continued to file their claims- they were able to get back-payed any time that was lapsed between when it was extended and when it was expired."

That bill would cost 6.4 billion dollars. A number of House Republicans have said is too much, and thus as it's written now, is likely to stall when it does reach the House.

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