Congressional action extends unemployment benefits in Washington state

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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Congressional approval of a two-month extension of long-term jobless benefits provides a reprieve to about 40,000 unemployed workers in Washington state who would have lost their benefits by the end of January, the state Employment Security Department said Friday.

Another 20,000 unemployed workers would have lost their benefits by the end of February.

As a result of federal lawmakers’ action, the Employment Security Department has halted its phase-out of the emergency unemployment compensation program. Without a change in federal law, the program would not have been able to admit additional participants after Dec. 31.

Congress also continued a second long-term benefits program known as “extended benefits.” It was scheduled to shut down in Washington state later in January, which would have further accelerated the number of people losing unemployment insurance.

“The congressional vote not only showed compassion, but also awareness that we need to add a lot more job opportunities before eliminating the safety net,” Joel Sacks, deputy commissioner for the Employment Security Department, said in a news release.

A fact sheet on unemployment benefits is available here.