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Unemployment benefits safe for now

WASHINGTON D.C. - Congress late last week approved a two-month extension of long-term jobless benefits.

This approval provides a reprieve to about 40,000 unemployed workers in Washington state who would have lost their unemployment benefits by the end of January - and another 20,000 who would have lost the benefits by the end of February.

Because of Congress' action, the state Employment Security Department has halted its phase-out of the emergency unemployment compensation program. Without a change in federal law, the program could have admitted no additional participants after Dec. 31.

Congress also continued a second long-term benefits program called "extended benefits." It was previously slated to shut down in Washington state in late January, further accelerating the number of people losing their unemployment benefits.

"The congressional vote not only showed compassion, but also the awareness that we need to add a lot more job opportunities before eliminating the safety net," said Joel Sacks, deputy commissioner of the Employment Security Department.

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