On March 27, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation extending unemployment insurance benefits for jobless Californians. To those employees who meet certain criteria, California's unemployment insurance benefits will be extended an additional 20 weeks, including the exhaustion of the 59 weeks of federal/state benefits previously available – 26 weeks of state benefits plus federal extensions totaling 33 weeks. Thus, some jobless residents now will be eligible for up to 79 weeks of aid.
Only jobless Californians whose existing benefits expired after Feb. 21 are eligible for the 20-week extension. The money will be an immediate lifeline for more than 75,000 California workers whose benefits would have run out on April 11. It is estimated that by the end of the year, about 400,000 additional laid-off workers should get the extra help. Officials expect the money to be spent on buying food and paying rent as the state's unemployment rate tops 10 percent.
"Accessing billions of dollars in federal unemployment aid not only will keep families in their homes, it's going to provide a quick boost to withering local economies and small businesses," said Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation.