Iowa Workforce Development counting on jobless benefit extension - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa Workforce Development counting on jobless benefit extension

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- The clock is ticking on unemployment benefits. The nation's lawmakers are deciding whether to extend jobless benefits for an additional month. The latest numbers have Iowa's unemployment rate sitting at 6.6 percent. A bill which would continue providing federal aid for these workers -- and others across the country -- is stalled in Congress.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 4,600 Iowans will exhaust their benefits in about two weeks if lawmakers do not pass a law extending unemployment relief. But experts are hopeful these workers will continue receiving their weekly checks with no interruptions.

Sunday, February 28th, government aid came to an end for about a thousand people in Iowa. But, they may never realize it. That is, if federal lawmakers can agree on a jobless benefit extension bill before Friday.

"Then we will be okay, and we'll just streamline through and move this process through very quickly. And nobody will miss a piece of their unemployment. Their checks won't be delayed, they won't have a week's skip in their benefits, or anything like that," said Iowa Workforce Development Communications Director Kerry Koonce.

So what happens if the bill does not make it to the Oval Office by the end of the week? Well, that's when it's time to be concerned.  On Wednesday, IWD will start notifying unemployed workers who stand to lose their benefits.

"If we don't get new legislation, we're going to be approximately about 1,000 Iowans a week across the state that will start running out of benefits, that won't be eligible for any additional benefits," she said.

The Federal Stimulus Package created three tiers of "additional benefits". They extend compensation 20, 14, and finally an additional 13 weeks, for Tiers 1, 2, and 3 respectively. This tier system is what technically came to an end Sunday. But if you are in the middle of, say, tier two, your benefits will not end early.

"Maybe you're on week ten right now. You would still get to finish those last additional four weeks, but then you would not be eligible for Tier 3 unless new legislation was passed," said Koonce.

Koonce believes lawmakers understand that there are just not a lot of jobs available, and she's confident they will support workers by extending federal aid.

"It takes awhile for jobs to bounce back. It'll probably be a year from now before we're really back up to the level of jobs we had before the recession hit," she added.

The Senate is expected to take another vote on a bill Tuesday. The bill passed by the House would push back the application time for benefit extensions until the beginning of April. It also extends the deadline for COBRA applications through the end of March.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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