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Federal help may be on the way to aid with state's money woes

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) voted to pass a bill that includes a major federal payment to help ease the state's budget shortfall, help out-of-work Washington residents, tax relief for state families and businesses and numerous job creation incentives.

The legislation, the American Workers, State and Business Relief Act (H.R. 4213), passed the Senate by a vote of 62 to 36.

"This bill provides across-the-board help for our state's economy and families," said Murray. "It includes Medicaid assistance to help reduce the state budget deficit, provides a safety net for those struggling to get back to work, helps more families afford health insurance, incentivizes businesses to grow and hire, and gives Washington taxpayers the fairness they deserve.

"Our focus must continue to be on getting our state's economy strong enough to grow and create jobs. This bill contains tax cuts for businesses and middle class families to help make that happen."

Specifically, the bill provides Washington state with an extension of federal unemployment insurance to assist the more than 260,000 Washington state residents currently receiving unemployment payment, or those who will apply in the future, through Dec. 31, 2010.

Also in the bill is an extension of a provision that increased the weekly unemployment benefits by an additional $25 per week through Dec. 31, 2010.

It also has provisions that allow those who have lost their jobs to continue to get significant federal assistance to afford COBRA health insurance.

The legislation provides a $500 million payment to help the state afford the rising cost of providing Medicaid that has come with increased enrollment, rising unemployment and lower tax receipts - a federal medical assistance percentage payment.

It also provides the ability for Washington families to continue to deduct state sales tax on their federal tax returns for the coming tax year (2010) - a tax cut that Murray says restores tax fairness and puts money directly into the pockets of middle-class families.

Finally, the bill provides a seven-month fix that will block a 21 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursement payments to Washington state doctors - a cut that would limit access to Medicare for Washington seniors.

A companion bill has already been passed by the House of Representatives. The two bills will now be reconciled and will then be sent to the President for his signature.

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