**This post is from December 2008. For more recent information on unemployment and the federal economic stimulus bill, check out our blog post from March 2009: What you need to know about unemployment insurance benefits in Minnesota which explains how unemployed Minnesotans will benefit from newly available resources.**
Before leaving Washington last month, the U.S. Senate finally passed a bill to extend unemployment insurance. Senators Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar both voted to cut off debate and proceed to a final voice vote on the bill, which provides most workers with an additional seven weeks of unemployment insurance benefits. Workers living in Minnesota and other states with unemployment rates of 6 percent or more will be eligible for an additional 13 weeks for a total of 20 weeks of extended eligibility. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 19,761 Minnesotans will exhaust their unemployment insurance benefits between October and December this year.
Congressional leaders are also working with the incoming Obama administration on a massive economic stimulus package that is expected to include federal fiscal aid to states through a temporary increase in the federal matching rate for Medicaid, a temporary boost in Food Stamp benefits, a large infusion of spending on infrastructure projects, and tax breaks for middle-class taxpayers.
Fiscal aid to the states is particularly important to Minnesota and an increasing number of states that are now facing large budget shortfalls due to the weakening economy. An analysis of House and Senate proposals developed this fall shows that Minnesota could receive between $362 million and $393 million in federal fiscal aid through an increase in the federal matching rate for Medicaid.