Updated: Wednesday, 21 Jul 2010, 10:02 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 21 Jul 2010, 9:11 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - A bill advancing in Congress that would restore unemployment benefits for millions of Americans could help about 80,000 Indiana residents who have been out of work more than six months.
The bill, which cleared the Senate on a 59-39 vote Wednesday and was expected to pass the House on Thursday, would give some of the nation's jobless benefits through November.
But it won't help those who have already exhausted their maximum 99 weeks of benefits, said Mark Lotter, a spokesman with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
"It would not do anything for them. There are no additional weeks of benefits" for those people, he said.
The average unemployment benefit in Indiana is about $300 per week, Lotter said. That money is a lifeline to people struggling to find work as the economic downturn lingers.
In Indiana, the unemployment rate was 10.1 percent in June, with 320,741 Indiana residents out of work, according to data released Tuesday.
Among those was Indianapolis resident Antwan Germany, who was laid off from his job last year and at one point resorted to using candles to light his residence because he couldn't pay his electric bill.
Last month, the 33-year-old was among some 80,000 Indiana residents who fell off the state's unemployment rolls when Congress bogged down over a plan to extend emergency jobless benefits to Americans have been out of work more than six months.
After he lost those benefits, Germany decided to follow his father into the barber business. He put $200 his mother recently gave him for his birthday toward barber school, rather than paying overdue bills.
"Bills will always be there, but school will get me out of it," said Germany, who called the news of the possible unemployment benefits extension a welcome surprise.
The proposal before Congress would restore payments averaging $309 a week for almost 5 million people whose 26 weeks of state benefits have run out. Those people are enrolled in a federally financed program providing up to 73 additional weeks of unemployment benefits.
About half of those currently eligible had their benefits cut off when funding expired June 2.
Lotter said once legislation is passed it will take the Department of Workforce Development a couple of weeks to reprogram computers and get things up and running.
"We will put out an update and let people know when they can come back and apply for benefits," he said.
No injuries were reported after an ambulance and a car crashed near downtown …