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Residents disagree on jobless benefits extension
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The most recent extension of federal unemployment benefits is being met with mixed reviews.

“On one hand, we’re helping all those people that can’t find jobs, but on the other hand I wonder if we’re hurting the country as a whole,” said Ann Dixon, a 33-year-old Gainesville resident.

“I want those people to get assistance — I thank God everyday for still having a job — but I don’t know if this is something that we can afford to do.”

After the U.S. House approved the measure on Thursday, President Barack Obama signed into law House Resolution 4213, which included provisions to prolong an already extended, unemployment benefits program. The U.S. Senate had given its final approval on Wednesday.

The program expired in June, but after Thursday’s action, unemployed workers will be able to take advantage of the extended benefits until April 30, 2011.

Although the program will pay through the beginning of next year, unemployed workers only have until Nov. 30 to apply for the extended benefits.

It is estimated that the new law will help around 2.3 million unemployed workers whose benefits have expired and will cost around $34 billion. The measure will retroactively apply to unemployed workers who lost their benefits on June 2.

“I know people that have been laid off, so I’m sympathetic to that,” said George Williams, a 45-year-old Gainesville resident.

“But where is this money coming from? I think the government may have been too short-sighted on this one.”

This extension, adds up to 53 weeks of additional unemployment benefits — applicable after an unemployed worker exhausts the initial 26 weeks of state benefits.

“Unemployment ain’t welfare, it’s giving help to the workers that lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” said Gigi Alford, a 20-year-old Buford resident.

“I think if they had the opportunity to work, they’d jump at it. You don’t get the full amount you made when you were working, so who would really want that?”

To be eligible for unemployment benefits, a worker must have previously been employed and also actively looking for work.

Although last month there were fewer, initial unemployment benefit claims filed than during the same time last year, there has been a month-to-month increase in claims statewide.

In June 2009, more than 88,700 initial claims were filed. This June there were only around 64,700. While that total is lower than a year ago, it is nearly 7,000 more claims than the 57,919 that were filed in May.

Locally, there were 929 initial claims filed in Gainesville in May, but by June that figure dropped to 881.

“They say the recession is almost over, but I say it’s not time to start celebrating yet,” said Homer Wilson, a 78-year-old Dahlonega resident.

“People still can’t find work. Everybody needs to tighten their belts — spend less and save more.”