July 22, 2010
President Barack Obama signed legislation into law that restores unemployment benefits to people who have been out of work for six months or more.
It's welcome news for 2.5 million people who have been without benefits for seven weeks.
Unemployment officials locally say it may be weeks before anyone sees any benefits from the legislation in our area, but the need certainly is apparent.
The House passed the bill 272-152 on Wednesday. U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, D-5th District, voted in favor of it, while Republican U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor cast a no vote.
The bill would restore benefits to people who have been out of work for six months or more. Benefits averaging about $300 a week were cut off when funding expired in June, affecting millions across the country.
In Albemarle County, the unemployment rate was at 4.8 percent as of January, much higher than years past. The office said it's seen a 50 percent increase in claims related to lack of work, and it's put extra strain on their staff and budget. In the first quarter of this year, the office was $15,000 over its estimated budget because of the spike in claims.
"It's a mix of individuals," said Pam Carter, Albemarle County's human resources manager. "Some people that we're still paying unemployment claims or have been unemployed for some time, and now we're receiving new claims from the reduction in workforce that we've recently experienced."
The program is being renewed through November. Meanwhile, many are hoping the number of those who need the benefits goes down.
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