Unemployment extension could help Ill. residents

SAVANNAH, Ga. The Unemployment Extension Act of 2008 is welcome news for the millions of unemployed Americans who were worried their benefits would run out before the holidays.

For state's like Illinois, where unemployment is 7.3 percent, the extension will mean some people out of work in the Chicago area will have more time to get back on their feet.

The new act was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in October and passed with overwhelming support in the Senate Thursday.

"Initially, there was resistance from the Bush administration, but I think they made the right decision by extending unemployment benefits," said Ill. Sen. Dick Durbin.

The act means:

- Those receiving unemployment can have a seven-week extension of benefits.

- Recipients in Illinois, where the unemployment rate is above the national average, may also be eligible to receive another 13 weeks of benefits.

The National Able Network offers help to job seekers in five states. T Chicago area offices have seen increases in people looking for work.

Chicago area resident Danita Johnson has been looking for an administrative position since July.

"It's really tough looking for something. I've been on a couple of interviews but nothing [happened]," she said.

Johnson's unemployment benefits were set to run out in January. So, the mother of five welcomes an extension of benefits.

"It would help me a great deal because I'd still have some type of income to take care of my family, pay bills, " said Johnson.

Debra Walker Johnson, the vice president of development and marketing for the National Able Network, says she sees many clients who need to upgrade skills or learn new ones before re-entering the workforce.

"The extension will give them the time they need to enter training programs, as they look for work," the National Able Network vice president said.

Details of the extension are still being clarified. It appears those who may have recently lost unemployment benefits many be eligible for the extension.

The spokesman for the state Department of Employment and Security says it is identifying people who may be eligible and will notify them by mail.

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