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White House: 65,000 Minnesotans face loss of jobless benefits

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Officials from the Obama administration said Tuesday that more than 65,000 Minnesotans will be cut off or become ineligible for unemployment benefits Dec. 28 if Congress does not act to extend them for the long-term unemployed.

The St. Cloud Times reports around 8,500 people would lose unemployment benefits right away when the current program expires and another 57,000 who would qualify for the program next year would be out of luck.

A modest budget agreement announced on Tuesday does not include an extension in unemployment benefits, according to an Associated Press report. The budget deal is expected to have only a marginal impact on federal deficits, but instead is designed to make across-the-board spending cuts easier.

Nearly 4.9 million would lose out on the unemployment benefits nationwide, 1.3 million of those would be cut off immediately.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez told reporters Tuesday, "These extended benefit programs provide critical relief to families and they also stimulate the economy during a time when stimulus is critical."

The benefits kick in after 26 weeks of state benefits run out. They have been in place since 2008 when George W. Bush signed them into law and have been extended multiple times.

Perez said, "If Congress doesn't act before Dec. 28 1.3 million people will receive a lump of coal in their stockings."

Republicans have been opposed to extending the benefits this time, saying they have already cost too much and the program has been far more generous than the last time the federal government offered extra benefits following the 2001 recession and terrorist attacks.

House Speaker John Boehner said last week that Democrats need to focus on creating more jobs instead.

“That’s where the focus is, not more government programs,” Boehner said.

Both of Minnesota's Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar sent a letter to Senate leadership on Friday arguing for an extension, according to a KARE 11 report. They said the benefits are a "critical component of our ongoing recovery and a lifeline to millions of Americans as they search for work in this challenging economy."

The national unemployment rate fell in November to 7 percent. The unemployment rate in Minnesota is 4.8 percent, the lowest it has been since 2007.

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