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Emergency unemployment compensation program extended

President Bush has signed legislation extending emergency unemployment benefits.

When first approved in June, the program provided up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits to people who had used up their regular benefits, were still unemployed and met other qualifications. The most recent change expands the program to allow a total of up to 33 weeks of benefits for eligible claimants.

Initial applications for the program may be submitted to the state's Employment Security Department through March 28, 2009, and approved claims can be paid through Aug. 29, 2009.

Employment security officials will begin notifying individuals who qualify for the program. People are asked to avoid calling or emailing the department so that staff can focus on processing current benefit claims as quickly as possible.

Statewide, unemployment claims are 50 percent higher than last year.

"These additional unemployment benefits are very welcome to people all over our state who are trying to stay afloat in our economy," said Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee.

People currently receiving benefits do not need to file a new application. People who have stopped claiming benefits should wait until they receive written information from Employment Security before reapplying.

Anyone whose original benefits ran out cannot receive extended benefits for weeks prior to the beginning week of Nov. 23, 2008.

The first payable week for the extended benefits will be the week ending this Saturday, Nov. 29.

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