Congress Set to Help Jobless, Homebuyers

By Jim Abrams, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House is poised to send the White House a bill extending aid to over a million people in danger of exhausting jobless benefits and additional tax credits for prospective homebuyers crucial to rejuvenating the housing market.

The $24 billion package also contains tax credits aimed at struggling businesses. The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation Thursday, a day after the Senate passed it 98-0.

With some 7,000 people running out of unemployment benefits every day and the current $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers set to expire at the end of the month, President Barack Obama is expected to quickly sign the measure into law.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the bill was "vital to Americans who have lost their jobs as a result of the deepest recession in over three-quarters of a century."

The bill would provide every American running out of unemployment insurance benefits this year with an additional 14 weeks. The out-of-work in states with jobless rates at 8.5% or greater would get six weeks on top of that.

It would also extend for seven months the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers that was enacted as part of the $787 billion stimulus package passed last February. The program would be expanded with a $6,500 credit for homebuyers who have lived in their current residences for five years.

Finally, it would allow businesses that have incurred losses in 2008 and 2009 to seek refunds for taxes paid on profits over the past five years.

The package, said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., a leader on the unemployment issue, will "help nearly 2 million Americans who are still unable to find work, protect small businesses struggling in this challenging economic climate and stimulate economic activity to help create jobs and grow our economy."

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