News Column

Jobless Benefits for 12,000 in Minn. Teeter on Fiscal Cliff

Jan. 2, 2013

Mark Sommerhauser, St. Cloud Times, Minn.

As congressional leaders haggle over a solution to the nation's so-called fiscal cliff, jobless benefits for more than 12,000 Minnesotans hang in the balance.

It's an example of an immediate impact that would be felt if congressional leaders and President Barack Obama can't strike a deal to avert the cliff, a mix of spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect in 2013.

Many economists predict the cumulative impact of those spending cuts and tax increases, if left in place for long enough in early 2013, could push the slowly growing U.S. economy into a recession.

Among those affected would be those on an extended jobless benefit program called emergency unemployment compensation, according to Blake Chaffee, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. In Minnesota, the program provides an additional 14 weeks of benefits to those who've exhausted the standard 26-week term of unemployment insurance.

About 12,200 Minnesota enrollees in the program would lose their weekly benefits for this week if a congressional extension isn't enacted, Chaffee said. About 2 million nationwide would lose benefits, according to an Associated Press report.

A bipartisan deal being hammered out by congressional leaders today would keep the extended jobless benefits in place for another year, according to an AP report. Obama held a news conference today to urge congressional leaders to finish negotiating the bipartisan deal. But even if it's finalized, it's not yet clear if it could pass the full House and Senate.

Source: (c)2013 St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, Minn.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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