Expiring federal jobless benefits won't affect Minnesotans yetby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio,
Curtis Gilbert, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Minnesota's unemployed are not among the estimated 2 million people nationwide who are losing their federal unemployment benefits.
Minnesota is one of about a dozen states that have their own supplemental unemployment programs that kick in once federal benefits run out.
Dan McElroy, commissioner of the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, said Thursday that the soonest Minnesota's unemployed could be cut off from benefits is March.
Under the state program, most people who still can't find a job after exhausting their federal benefits are eligible for 13 more weeks of benefits -- assuming the state's unemployment rate is above 6.5 percent.
But McElroy told MPR's Morning Edition that he hopes people won't exhaust their benefits.
"I hope that the people who are at risk of losing their benefits will let us help them try to find a job," he said, adding that unemployed Minnesotans have a much better chance than before.
"The number of jobs in our job bank has gone from less than 8,000 a year ago to almost 30,000 right now," McElroy said. "The job situation isn't terrific but it's better than it had been."
It isn't clear how many Minnesotans will exhaust the state supplemental benefits in March, but there are currently about 64,000 Minnesotans receiving federal extended unemployment benefits that started running out on Wednesday.
About 150,000 people are collecting unemployment benefits in Minnesota, and about 1,000 of them each week exhaust their benefits.
Minnesotans who lose their jobs are eligible for up to 86 weeks of unemployment benefits. Some states with higher unemployment rates are eligible for up to 99 weeks of federal benefits.
Minnesota's unemployment rate is 7.1 percent. The national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent.
Congress has passed a series of unemployment benefit extensions during the recession. In some states, some who can't find jobs have been eligible for almost two years of benefits.
It's still possible Congress will act to restore the benefits that have begun to expire, but many Republicans and conservative Democrats are concerned about adding to the national debt.
McElroy said what happens to Minnesotans who still can't find a job after their state benefits expire varies.
"Some have to rely on their savings, some are relying on family and friends, and we're afraid that some become homeless," he said.
McElroy said Minnesotans whose federal benefits are going to expire need to apply for the state supplemental benefits by calling 1-877-898-9090.
- Morning Edition, 12/02/2010, 8:45 a.m.
Elizabeth Dunbar is a general assignment reporter for MPR News.