Extended benefits bill passes Senate

by Wally Northway

Published: November 5,2009

Tags: federal government, housing crisis, recession, tax credit, unemployment benefits

WASHINGTON — Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) has voted for legislation that would allow the State of Mississippi to offer an additional 20 weeks of unemployment benefits to jobless workers.

The Senate approved (98-0) the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009 (HR.3548), which in addition to extending unemployment benefits will also extend and expand an expiring homebuyer tax credit.

The House of Representatives is expected to pass the Senate bill and forward it to the White House.

“High rates of unemployment in Mississippi and around the nation remain a very real problem. It is my hope that extending these benefits will well serve those still looking for work and help move the nation toward economic recovery,” Cochran said.

HR.3548 provides an additional 14 weeks of Emergency Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits to all states, and an additional six weeks of benefits to states with unemployment rates exceeding 8.5 percent. Because Mississippi’s unemployment rate in September was 8.8 percent, the state would be among 27 states qualifying for a total of 20 weeks of extended UI benefits.

The legislation also extends a first-time homebuyer tax credit, currently set to expire Nov. 30, through April 30, 2010, with 60 days to close a home sale. It also creates a new $6,500 credit for existing homeowners who have lived in their current homes for five consecutive years.

Related to the homebuyer tax credits, the Senate Bill increases the qualifying income cap to $125,000 for individuals and $225,000 for married couples, up from $75,000 and $150,000, respectively. Homes sold for more than $800,000 would not be eligible for the credit.

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