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House looks at unemployment benefits

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Renita Jablonski:
The House Ways and Means Committee is considering a bill today to extend unemployment benefits.
Democrats plan to include the additional benefits in a second economic stimulus package. But they face an uphill battle in Congress, and with the White House. Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: Supporters of extended benefits point to a rising unemployment rate. It hit 5.1 percent last month. Congressman Jim McDermott, a Democrat from Washington state, says people who are out of work need extra benefits now to pay the bills.

Jim McDermott: They have to spend it tomorrow for food and rent and clothes and gasoline.

McDermott says all that spending will stimulate the economy. But Alex Brill says it’s not that simple. Brill is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He says unemployed people who have rainy day funds won’t spend the money right away.

Alex Brill: If you simply provide more money to everybody, you’re not being efficient or effective.

.

A bill co-sponsored by McDermott would give everybody 13 more weeks of unemployment benefits. Brill says the benefits extension should be limited to states with high unemployment. All the debate could be moot, though. President Bush says he wants to see how the first economic stimulus package plays out before starting in on a second one.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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