Thousands affected if jobless benefits change

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU and WASHINGTON (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands of Hawaii residents could see their extended unemployment benefits run out early after Congress failed in its first attempt to renew the program that funds them.

In a fast track vote that needed a two-thirds majority to pass, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 258-154 in favor of extending the program, too small a majority for the measure to pass.

Eleven Democrats voted no; only 21 Republicans voted aye.

More than $400 million in extended unemployment compensation benefits have been paid to 48,000 Hawaii residents since the program began in the summer of 2008. But it expires Nov. 30 unless renewed.

Hawaii offers 26 weeks of jobless benefits, but the extended program has extended that from half a year to almost a year and a half. Some 1,600 residents per month come to the end of their 26 weeks without having found new work.

The program offers extended benefits in tiers. If it expires Nov. 30, people who already qualify for extended benefits will continue to get them only to the end of their current tier.

Hawaii deputy labor secretary Colleen LaClair said Thursday that each month some 2,500 people in the program will come to the end of their extended benefits.

Unless a later attempt to extend the program succeeds, the last of the benefits will run out in April.

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