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  • In December 2010, the U.S. Congress authorized the extension of federal benefits. However, many states, including Pennsylvania, were warned they would have to tweak their legislation to qualify for these benefits. The previous legislation linked eligibility of workers for extended benefits to the unemployment rate in the last two years. For Pennsylvania to qualify for extended benefits under the current program the Pennsylvania congress needed to modify the criteria to include the last three years in the benchmark deciding which workers received extended benefits and which did not qualify.

    The Extended Benefits Program

    The Extended Benefits program is designed to help states with especially high unemployment rates and assist workers who do not find a job after their unemployment benefits have ended. However, the eligibility for this program depends on the unemployment rate worsening. If the unemployment rate remains the same or improves, however slightly, eligibility is jeopardized. That is why the Pennsylvania Congress needed to change the rules to an alternative eligibility criteria that looks at the last three years instead of the last two. Under this criteria Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate record, still allows Pennsylvania to qualify for benefits.

    However, this change in the state unemployment law did not come without a fight. The republican party were remiss to allowing a modification that would increase the amount of money used by unemployed workers in benefits. Negotiations have been going on for weeks to find a middle ground. The compromise involved reducing the benefits provided to certain high-earning workers by reducing the maximum weekly benefit amount offered to workers. Now the maximum benefit rate in 2012 will  be $573 which will bring millions of dollars in savings. There were worse suggestions by the Republican party. One of these suggestions was that the formula used to calculate state unemployment benefits were slightly modified to reduce the expenditure in wages by $463 million.

    This twelfth hour decision help over 45,000 unemployed workers lose their benefits. Pennsylvania is only one of the 26 states that have modified their legislation to allow for the extended benefits program to apply.Yet most of the other states accepted the decision without controversy. However, some states such as South Carolina and Pennsylvania only agreed to modify the rules in the twelfth hour and with onerous grants to expenditure cutting programs.

    On June 11, residents in 2009 the state of Pennsylvania lost  the right to receive the extended benefits program, which provides 10 to 20 weeks of benefits. Republicans used the imminent cancellation of payments for workers on extended benefits to score points in their own effort to reduce the cost of unemployment benefits for the states.

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