45,000 Massachusetts workers may lose unemployment benefits

It is estimated that 45,000 Massachusetts residents may lose unemployment benefits right after the Christmas holidays if the government decides not to extend the benefit program currently in place. Unemployed residents of Massachusetts receive unemployment benefits from the state for 26 weeks after which a national benefits program provides an extra 28 weeks. Due to the debate about deficit reduction for 2013, however, these national benefits are set to expire on Dec. 29 unless they are extended in Congress.

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The purpose of the national benefits program is to support workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and prevent the national economy from heading into a tailspin. Unemployment benefits typically pay half of a person’s last income, with a maximum benefit of $674 a week, according to Boston.com. In Massachusetts, an unemployed worker who once would have received 90 weeks of unemployment insurance currently qualifies for up to 54 weeks of benefits. If Congress cuts the program entirely, residents would qualify for only up to 30 weeks of benefits, state officials said.

The Boston Globe said , “One in 10 workers in Massachusetts was unemployed in February, according to the most recent statistics compiled by the state. There were nearly 38,000 new and additional unemployment claims filed, and about 143,000 people who continued their unemployment claims.”

Facing the increasing number of people out of work, Congress failed to reach an agreement and struggled with a fierce political debate over organizing nation’s budget priorities while reviving the economy.

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Last year Senator Scott Brown cosponsored a bill to extend the benefits another year, as long as much of the cost was offset by budget reductions, according to the Boston Globe. The proposal never took off. Brown’s Spokeswoman said in a statement that Brown will continue “working in a bipartisan way to find a compromise on extending unemployment benefits and the many other critical issues that must be resolved.”

Congressman Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat called the benefits critical for job seekers and the state’s economy.

“We know that unemployment benefits also help spur the economy, with billions of dollars in economic growth attributable to extension of benefits. I will continue to fight to ensure we extend this lifeline to the millions of hard-working Americans who need a helping hand as they look for a new job,” Markey said to Boston.com.

The cuts on unemployment benefits may also hurt the economy because people will have less to spend. The popular opinion in the political world is to extend the benefit program and supplement unemployment insurance when the unemployment rate is 6.6 percent  in Massachusetts.

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