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One Million Americans Set to Exhaust Jobless Benefits

More than 1 million unemployed workers are poised to lose their jobless benefits in January if Congress doesn’t step in to extend the filing deadlines for the emergency insurance program, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group.

Although Congress just enacted an extension of jobless benefits — up to 20 weeks in high-unemployment states — a Dec. 31 filing deadline will effectively prevent many folks from getting all the money they’re eligible to receive.

Underlying the problem is the bewildering framework of the benefits themselves. Under current law, states offer 26 weeks of jobless insurance before a four-tier system of emergency federal benefits kick in. Beneficiaries must exhaust the benefits they’re receiving before they can file for the next level.

NELP estimates that nearly 475,000 people will exhaust their state-funded benefits after Dec. 31 — and therefore miss the filing deadline for the multiple tiers of emergency federal help — while more than 580,000 folks will exhaust one tier of federal help after the deadline, preventing them from jumping to the next tier.

If Congress doesn’t step in, the deadline “will create total chaos for the state agencies and workers facing an uncertain future,” Christine Owens, NELP’s executive director, said in a statement.

The good news for Owens and the unemployed is that congressional leaders are well aware of the problem. Indeed, the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has signaled that Democratic leaders will address the deadline glitch before Congress adjourns for the year.

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