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SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill that extends unemployment benefits for Americans still out of work won't benefit Utahns because our jobless rate is too low.
The bill extends benefits only for those living in places with unemployment rates of 8.5 percent or above.Utah's rate is only 6 percent.
"I just think it was wrong for the Congress to try and pick winners and losers," Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz explained on Utah's Morning News on KSL Newsradio. "That's what's outrageous about this," he said.
"Essentially it's the difference between keeping their homes and putting food on the table, and potentially being homeless. That's really what it comes down to," said Bill Starks, the Unemployment Insurance Director at the Department of Workforce Services.
"If you're unemployed and living in Clearfield (Utah), believe me, you're just in as much of a crisis as if you're unemployed and living in Michigan," Chaffetz said.Currently in Utah have 26 weeks of state-funded unemployment benefits and up to 20 weeks of emergency benefits that are federally funded.
It seems like a weird thing to hope for more unemployment, but Starks said the stimulus package had a stipulation about when more benefits could be doled out to states.
He said, "If we stay at a 6 percent unemployment rate for three months that will trigger an additional 13 weeks beginning in November."
Starks hoped that news would help those who have exhausted their benefits or are about to in the coming weeks. That number is projected to top 600 Utahns a week by December.
Did you know... only education/health care and government have added jobs to the Utah economy over the past year. -Utah Dept. of Workforce Services
The measure easily passed the House Tuesday 331-83. Sixty-six House Republicans, including Chaffetz, voted against the bill. Utah Rep. Jim Matheson was one of the 17 Democrats to vote against it. Rep. Rob Bishop did not vote.
The bill now goes to the Senate. The Senate bill is similar, but not identical.
The bill is an economic lifeline to more than 300,000 people whose jobless benefits are set to expire at the end of the month.
More than a million people expect their benefits to run out by year's end.
Majority leader Harry Reid is promising quick Senate action on its version of the extension.