Calif. Extends Unemployment Benefits

Relief ... for now

The California Employment Development Department reported the unemployment rate increased from 10.1 percent in January. The rate tops the national rate of 8.1 percent.

About 1.95 million Californians are unemployed. Sharp declines in construction, manufacturing, finance, trade, transportation, professional services, leisure, health and education are blamed for the losses.

Relief is coming for the state's nearly 2 million unemployed residents. The state Senate has passed a bill to extend benefits to the unemployed by 20 weeks.

The bill would allow the state to draw up to $3 billion in federal stimulus money and passed Thursday on a 38-0 vote. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to sign it.

California is among more than a dozen high-unemployment states that need to make changes in its unemployment insurance system to qualify for the additional federal money.

The bill extends the maximum time Californians can receive benefits from 59 weeks to 79 weeks.

One Republican lawmaker requested making it easier to disqualify applicants, but majority Democrats delayed consideration of the request until later.

The Senate also approved a second bill to update the unemployment insurance program. That bill now moves to the Assembly.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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