Bingaman: Senate approves unemployment benefits bill

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman today said he is pleased the Senate has approved legislation to extend unemployment benefits to thousands of New Mexicans who have been unable to find a job in this difficult economic climate.

The bill would extend unemployment insurance by up to 14 additional weeks for jobless workers in all states and up to 20 weeks in hard-hit states with unemployment levels at or above 8.5 percent. New Mexico’s unemployment rate as of September was 7.7 percent, up from 4.3 percent a year ago.

“Like the rest of the country, New Mexico is feeling the effects of the current economic situation,” Bingaman said. “While it is not a permanent solution, unemployment benefits provide many families with temporary relief as they continue to look for work. I am pleased it has cleared another hurdle.”

The bill does the following:

Extend unemployment insurance by up to 14 additional weeks for jobless workers who exhaust their benefits by Dec. 31; and

Extend benefits for an six additional weeks for workers who exhaust their unemployment benefits by Dec. 31, in states with unemployment levels over 8.5 percent.

The bill does the following to encourage new home-buying:

Extend through April 30, 2010 the tax credit for first-time homebuyers (up to $8,000 or up to 10 percent of the purchase price of the residence), allowing 60 days to close (July 1, 2010), provided that the homes are under a binding contract by April 30;

Provide homebuyer tax credit of up to $6,500 to owners who have been in the same principal residence for five consecutive years during the previous eight years;

Increase the income limitations to $125,000 for individuals and $225,000 for joint filers;

Phase out the credit for individuals with incomes above $125,000 for individuals and $225,000 for joint filers at the same rate as current law (over the next $20,000);

Limit the credit to purchases of principal residences equal to or less than $800,000;

Eliminate the 36-month recapture requirement for military personnel, including members of the Foreign Service and intelligence community, forced to sell as a result of an official extended duty of service; and

Extend the tax credit for one year for military personnel serving outside the United States for at least 90 days in 2009 or 2010.

The bill must now be approved by the House of Representatives before it can be signed into law.