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Unemployment Extension Critical to Local Economies

December 15, 2011

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Congress continues to wrangle with the extension of unemployment benefits. The House has passed a version that would cut the term of benefits by 40 weeks and require recipients to have a high school diploma.

Mark Anderson, president of the South Dakota State Federation of Labor, says the loss of extended benefits would hit retailers and local governments, too.

"Unemployment benefits average about $296 dollars a week, and that money all goes back into the community. So, not only does it give families money to buy groceries and pay their rent and buy other things that they need, but for every dollar spent on unemployment benefits, it puts $1.90 back into the economy."

Anderson says the AFL-CIO estimates that between 200 and 600 South Dakotans would lose benefits if the extension is not passed by the end of the month. He says those on unemployment don't really want to be there.

"The people on unemployment are not trying to scam the system; they're just simply people that have lost their job and are out looking for another one, or if they happen to be a construction worker, they are waiting for the season and weather to change so they can start working again. It's important that these people have that small bridge just to get 'em through the tough times."

The latest numbers show unemployment in South Dakota at 4.3 percent. Nationally, the rate has dipped a bit to 8.6 percent.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD