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Unemployment benefits end for thousands of Minnesotans

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Extended unemployment benefits for more than one million Americans came to an end on Saturday after Congress chose not to vote for an extension prior to the holiday break.

According to the Associated Press, the end of the five-year program is affecting about 1.3 million people immediately and will hit hundreds of thousands more in the coming months should they remain jobless. That program provided an average stipend of more than $1,100 a month.

Minnesota is not getting hit as hard as many other states by the end of the program. It eliminates the 14 weeks of federal benefits for those whose 26 weeks of state benefits had run out.

Minnesota's unemployment rate is roughly 4.6 percent, workers in states with higher unemployment rates were eligible for longer-term federal jobless benefits.

MPR News reports that about 8,500 Minnesotans had their unemployment benefits expire on Saturday.

The head of the Minnesota unemployment insurance program Rick Caligiuri told MPR, "As far as the economy goes an unemployment, it's a very mixed bag across the nation. Minnesota has been strong in its recovery, and quicker into its recovery from the Great Recession than other states."

Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration wanted the program to continue the extensions they were not included in budget deal reached earlier this month. Republicans were opposed to the $26 billion annual cost of it.

Congress could pick the debate up on jobless benefits after the new year, according to the Star Tribune. The Democratic-led U.S. Senate is set to take a procedural vote on extending unemployment benefits when lawmakers return on Jan. 6.

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