By TOM RAUM
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is looking at the downside of letting jobless people collect up to almost two years of unemployment benefits. While the benefits are a crucial lifeline for the long-term unemployed, economists worry they also can be a disincentive to looking for work and actually prolong joblessness.
Republicans have passed a bill in the House that would reduce maximum coverage time by 20 weeks. The current ceiling on federal and state benefits combined is 99 weeks, and Democrats want to keep it. The GOP plan coupled with recently declining unemployment rates would cut that ceiling to 59 weeks by summer.
If Congress does nothing by the end of the year, up to a million workers unemployed for at least six months could loses benefits in January.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)