Unemployment benefits extension clears hurdle - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Unemployment benefits extension clears hurdle

By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield - bio | email

WASHINGTON (WIS/AP) - A bill to restore unemployment benefits to millions who have been out of work for more than six months has cleared a Senate hurdle.

The 60-40 vote came moments after Carte Goodwin, a successor to West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, was sworn in. Goodwin was the crucial 60th senator to defeat a Republican filibuster that has led to a lapse in benefits for 2.5 million people.

A battle has raged for months over whether jobless benefits should be financed with additional federal debt as Democrats want or through cuts to other government programs as most Republicans insist.

The vote has affected people in the Palmetto State like Kathleen Farrell, who lost her job last week.

"I worked part-time for a company," said Farrell. "Last week, it closed without any notification."

Farrell came to the One Stop Job Center in Columbia. Last week alone, 6,000 people walked through the doors.

Maybe you have a job, you're thinking this is all numbers.  Well, if you'd like some perspective, take a peek in your local unemployment office, that is if you can find a place to stand.

Clark Newsome works with the Department of Employment and Workforce and says for the unemployed, the extension could be huge.

"They can get any money they may have been due to get retroactively along with picking up their benefits again which helps an awful lot for when you don't have a job right now and are left paying the bills," said Newsome.

After a final Senate vote, the House will take up the bill Wednesday. President Barack Obama is likely to sign it into law by week's end.

Newsome says the effects right here in our state will be swift.

"It will be an immediate benefit to the economy," said Newsome. "Those people pay mortgages, pay light bills, have food bills. There's a lot of money that will go back into the economy that's not been there before."

Even though the news may be welcomed at the unemployment office, that's not where the journey ends.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.

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