Congress approves more aid for jobless workers -- 20 additional weeks in California

The House overwhelmingly approved legislation Thursday to provide additional aid to the unemployed, particularly in hard-hit states such as California, and an extension and expansion of a tax credit for home buyers.

President Obama will sign the measure this morning, the White House said, after the government releases data expected to show that the unemployment rate increased to 9.9% in October, a 26-year high.

Unemployment benefits expired for about 600,000 people in the last two months, according to the National Employment Law Project. The desire to help those people and others whose benefits are running out, as well as to try to continue to fuel a real estate recovery, led to strong bipartisan support for the legislation.

The 403-12 House vote followed the Senate’s 98-0 approval Wednesday.


“The legislation offers a lifeline to out-of-work Americans, to the men and women hardest hit by the recession,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). “It means more Americans will have access to the support and assistance that they need to get back on their feet, re-enter the workforce and contribute to our economy.”

People without jobs will get an additional 14 weeks of benefits. Those in states with unemployment rates above 8.5% -- California and 26 other states -- will get 20 weeks of additional benefits. Following earlier extensions, the measure would give the unemployed nearly two years of benefits. The provision costs $2.4 billion.

The legislation also extends the first-time home buyer tax credit of up to $8,000 until April 30. It also creates a new credit of up to $6,500 for owners who sell their homes and buy another. The credit applies to homes costing up to $800,000.

And the bill expands the tax credits to more affluent buyers. Individual tax filers who earn up to $125,000 and joint filers who earn up to $225,000 would now be eligible for the full credit. The credit would phase out for individuals earning up to $145,000 and joint filers earning up to $245,000. The program would cost about $11 billion.