US: Legislation to include six-month extensions of unemployment benefits

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    The US House of Representatives, tackling sky-high unemployment on the cusp of an election year, will vote Wednesday on a new jobs bill, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday.

    “It’s a bill that creates jobs, that meets the needs of those who are unemployed and puts us on a path to prosperity,” she said at a press conference with other Democratic House leaders.

    The package will include infrastructure projects and aid to states to help them avoid layoffs of critical public-sector workers including police, teachers and emergency workers, at a price tag of about 75 billion dollars.

    Pelosi said the House would use leftover funds from a titanic financial sector bailout package to pay for the new legislation, which comes ten months after US President Barack Obama signed a nearly 800-billion-dollar economic stimulus bill into law.

    The legislation will include six-month extensions of unemployment benefits due to run out soon and of a stopgap health insurance program — a key initiative given that most US workers are covered through their employer.

    Pelosi urged the Senate to act quickly after the House, where the sizeable Democratic House majority means the measure is nearly certain to pass, in order to make it possible for Obama to sign it into law before the president’s annual State of the Union speech, typically in late January.

    Earlier this month, official figures showed the unemployment rate fell in November to 10.0 percent from 10.2 percent, suggesting that problems in the job market had peaked.

    But Democrats worry about the impact of joblessness on their prospects in the November 2010 mid-term elections.