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Sweeney & Oliver Promise To Extend Unemployment Benefits For Laid-Off New Jerseyans Before Current Session Ends

(TRENTON) – Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver on Thursday announced plans to help laid-off New Jersey workers take advantage of extended federal unemployment benefits, vowing to pass new legislation authorizing the benefits before the current legislative session ends on Jan. 9.

“With thousands of New Jerseyans still desperately seeking work, ensuring they can take full advantage of the extended federal benefit is the right thing to do,” said Sweeney (D-Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester). “Not only will these benefits keep the unemployed and their families afloat during this difficult period, but they are also the best form of economic stimulus. This is money that goes right back into the economy.”

“With the economy only showing intermittent signs of recovery, the federal extension of unemployment benefits is a life-saver for many New Jersey families,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “Businesses, while signaling that they intend to start hiring in the New Year, have yet to do so in a healthy enough dose to make a considerable dent in our statewide unemployment rate, making the extension of these benefits all the more imperative.”

With New Jersey’s unemployment rate still hovering around 9 percent and 15,000 more individuals applying for benefits last week, the leaders welcomed the federal extension to help beleaguered New Jersey residents desperately trying to find work.

The legislation, which is being drafted, would implement the option provided under legislation signed by President Obama last week, which will extend federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits until Feb. 29, 2012, two months after they were set to expire.

The legislature unanimously passed similar legislation (S-2680/A-3795) earlier this year after the federal government extended UI benefits until January 3, 2012. The legislation was signed by Governor Christie in April. Sweeney and Oliver said the new legislation that will be introduced will include a trigger that will automatically extend the benefits at the state level should the federal government extend them again at any future date.

The continuation of benefits will incur no costs to New Jersey’s unemployment fund or employers in the state because the federal act provides 100 percent federal funding of the benefits throughout the extension.

“We’ve seen our unemployment rate improve in fits and starts, but have yet to see a sizeable and sustained improvement, as evidenced by the jump in applicants for unemployment benefits last week,” added Oliver. “The lack of available work for our residents makes the extension of these benefits all the more crucial while we work towards creating long-term employment opportunities.”

“I am glad Washington was able to overcome the gridlock for the time-being, and hope they can develop a more permanent solution. In the meantime, Democrats in the Legislature will continue to do everything we can to provide not just benefits for the working middle class families who need them, but also the jobs that will produce a paycheck. We hope our colleagues across the aisle will work with us on these efforts and that Governor Christie will sign the benefits extension into law the second the bill hits his desk,” said Sweeney.

The legislative leaders hope to have the legislation ready for introduction when both houses reconvene on January 5.