U.S. jobless benefits bill clears Congress

09:05, July 23, 2010      

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The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday to extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who are out of work for more than six months. Having gained the Senate's approval on Wednesday, the measure will soon be sent to the president's desk for his signature.

The House voted 272 to 152 to approve the legislation. The lower chamber had previously passed an unemployment-benefits extension bill, but the version that the Senate passed on Wednesday is different, so the House needed to vote on it again.

The bill, with a price tag of 34 billion U.S. dollars, would restore benefits to more than 2.5 million unemployed people who have seen their checks cut off since the emergency program expired June 2.

After enacted, the new measure would authorize unemployed workers to draw up to 99 weeks of aid through November averaging 309 dollars a week. That includes 26 weeks of basic aid offered by states, plus long-term federal payments.

The Obama administration has signaled that it may seek another renewal of benefits in November if unemployment remains unacceptably high.

Currently, the unemployment rate stands at 9.5 percent and about 14.6 million people are out of work. The duration of unemployment is even more worrisome. About 43 percent of unemployed workers had been out of work for six months or more and 29 percent of unemployed workers had been jobless for more than a year, according to a report by the Congress' Joint Economic Committee.

After finishing the legislation on jobless benefits extension, Congress is now going to take on other measures aimed at easing the plight of Americans during an economic downturn and spurring the economy.

One of the proposals under consideration is whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, due to expire at the end of this year. Senate Finance Committee members were to meet later Thursday to discuss the measure.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the House will extend tax cuts for middle-income families while letting tax rates for the wealthiest go up at the end of the year.

"My stance is that the Bush-era tax cuts contributed to the deficit, did not create any jobs, that they should be repealed," she said. "What we should, though, renew are the middle-income tax cuts. Our position has been that we support middle-income tax cuts."

Source: Xinhua


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