With job losses continuing and long-term unemployment reaching the highest level since 1948, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation Act (H.R. 5749) by a vote of 331-83.
Despite predictions the recession is running out of steam, last month the national unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent. The average length of unemployment in July, 2009 was 25.1 weeks, and 22.8 percent of those unemployed were out of a job for 27 weeks or more.
The Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation Act would provide 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits to workers in every state who exhaust the 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits. And, in states with high unemployment, an additional 13 weeks would be available, for a total of 26 weeks of extended benefits. All benefits would be paid out of the federal unemployment trust fund, which has over $35 billion in reserves.
The legislation now goes to the Senate with a good chance to pass because it is similar to a provision included in the war supplemental spending package approved by the Senate last month.
Congress has extended unemployment benefits seven other times during periods of economic difficulty: 1958, 1961, 1972, 1975, 1982, 1991, and in 2002.