Boone County residents continue receiving financial aid

The insurance was renewed late due to one senator's objections

Nearly 500 Boone County residents will continue to receive weekly unemployment insurance checks after Congress passed an emergency bill to extend the benefits.

Missouri Department of Labor spokeswoman Amy Susan said 35,000 to 36,000 Missouri residents will exhaust their federal unemployment benefits in the next five weeks and will be able to apply for the extension. Of that, Susan said 478 are Boone County residents.

The bill was scheduled to pass last week because benefits were set to expire Monday. But Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., objected repeatedly to a unanimous consent motion that would have allowed Congress to pass the bill quickly, saying the bill would add to the federal deficit. The bill passed Tuesday night by a vote of 78-19 after a full floor vote on whether the bill should be funded.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., issued a statement Wednesday condemning Bunning's opposition to the bill. Spokeswoman Maria Speiser said McCaskill is concerned about the rising federal debt but said not passing Tuesday's bill would have negatively affected unemployed Missouri residents.

"Sen. McCaskill believes that in an emergency situation, special consideration is sometimes needed," she said. "With 10 percent unemployment, Sen. McCaskill felt it was important that those families who can't find work have money to put food on the table."

Phone messages and e-mails for comment from Bunning's office were not returned, but Bunning, who is not running for re-election, issued several statements on his Web site about the bill. In a statement Tuesday night, Bunning said he supported the extension of unemployment benefits but opposed the Democrats' designation of the $10 billion measure as "emergency spending." That designation means the bill does not have to comply with a February law that said new legislation could not add to the federal debt.

"My stand over the last couple of days was not against those Kentuckians who are on the unemployment line," he said. "I support the underlying legislation and support those who are out of work and need a helping hand. What I do not support is the hypocrisy displayed by Senate Democrats."

Economics professor Peter Mueser said the extension of unemployment insurance was important because people who are unemployed for lengthy periods of time are less likely to find new jobs.

"One thing about this recession is that the proportion of people who are long-term unemployed is higher than in recent recessions," he said. "That (the extension's passage) makes a lot of difference for those people. In fact, they are the only group affected by this."

Columbia resident David Tye said unemployment insurance is very important to those who have their jobs. He said such benefits could have helped him when he lost his job as a custodian at Stephens College in 2006.

On Thursday, at the corner of Ninth and Cherry streets, Tye, who was denied unemployment insurance and is now homeless, said receiving the insurance would have helped him stay off the streets.

"It would've kept me in housing," Tye said. "Unemployment helps a guy out temporarily. In that span, they (the unemployed) can pay rent."

In numbers released Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor said statewide unemployment had risen from 6.1 percent in 2008 to 9.3 percent in 2009, which was equal to the national average.

Also Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon signed an extension of state-level extended benefits for up to the first 20 weeks of a person's unemployment. The program had ended in December.

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