Minn. delegation pushes for extension of jobless benefits

Members of Minnesota's congressional delegation say they'll push for federal legislation giving Minnesotans a 13-week extension of jobless benefits.

A bill making its way through Congress provides added benefits only to residents of states with unemployment rates averaging at least 8.5 percent in recent months. Minnesota's has been a bit below that. In August, the state's unemployment rate was 8 percent.

John Schadl, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, says Oberstar is optimistic Congress will pass an unemployment benefits extension that includes more states.

"This bill we just passed had to go, because we had so many in tough situations in states with high unemployment that we needed to move quickly," said Schadl. "But there are very good prospects to pass another bill that would include other states, like Minnesota."

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Jess McIntosh, a spokeswoman for Sen. Al Franken, agrees that unemployed Minnesotans need help, too.

"The economy may be beginning to show signs of turning around, but we have a lot of folks who can't find work out there," said McIntosh. "And we need to make sure they have the benefits they need to see them through these challenging times."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar says extending unemployment benefits for Minnesotans is on her agenda.

"I will work to get a lower threshold so unemployed Minnesotans could benefit from this extension," she said in a prepared statement. "Minnesota's unemployment rate may be eight percent but that's still a lot of people out of work."

About 175,000 Minnesotans are now receiving unemployment benefits.

They can collect up to 50 percent of what had been their average weekly pay, up to a maximum of $566 per week. The average benefit is $355. Lately, the federal government also has provided an additional weekly payment of $25.

Eligible jobless residents can collect payments for up to 79 weeks. About 1,000 Minnesotans a week are running out of benefits.