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Minnesota House delegation votes to extend jobless benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Minnesota’s entire U.S. House delegation voted Thursday to extend unemployment benefits for at least 14 weeks.

The legislation, which passed the Senate on Wednesday, would also extend and expand the homebuyer tax credit program.

“This is Main Street economic stimulus,” Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said in a statement.  “Any time you can help 1.3 million Americans — including 20,530 Minnesotans — buy their groceries and pay their bills, we help families and fuel our economic recovery.”

The Senate bill extends unemployment for 14 weeks in states like Minnesota that have an unemployment rate below 8.5 percent and for 20 weeks in states with a rate of 8.5 percent or higher.

The original bill that passed the House would have limited the extension to the 31 states with the highest unemployment.

“A worker who is out of a job is just as unemployed and strapped for cash in a state with 8.4 percent unemployment as a worker in a state with 8.5 percent unemployment,” said Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., in a statement. “The benefits will provide an additional economic stimulus when these families use their benefits to buy groceries and pay their bills.”

The bill also extends and expands the Homebuyer Tax Credit program to allow first time homebuyers continued access to an $8,000 tax credit until April 30, 2010. The bill expands the program to make a tax credit of up to $6,500 available to homebuyers who have owned a home for five consecutive years and are purchasing a new primary residence, according to Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn.

“The recovery of our housing market is critically important and this extended and expanded incentive will help things continue to move in the right direction.  We’ve expanded this credit so some existing homeowners as well as first time home buyers will benefit,” Walz said in a statement.

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