N.J. lawmakers urge U.S. to extend jobless benefits

New Jersey officials say they are concerned about what will happen if Congress does not act to extend unemployment benefits.

Without a federal extension, state Labor Department officials said benefits for more than half of the 325,000 New Jersey residents now collecting them will run out by June.

That will add to hardships for people and problems in urban areas, said Sen. Sandra Cunningham.

“It already has an effect on everything in our communities. It’s only going to get worse. That affects crime. That affects everything that a lot of people don’t deal with, we deal with every single day,” she said Thursday. “People are going to become desperate.”

The Labor Department is reaching out to other state agencies to prepare them for an increase in the number of jobless residents who may seek other forms of assistance.

“We have a number of safety net programs that are out there where we’re trying to keep families fed and keep roofs over peoples’ homes,” said Sen. Fred Madden. “That’s going to be a serious part of the debate as we move forward.”

Madden said reforms made in the past year have pushed the deficit in the state unemployment insurance down to $1.4 billion. As the fund gets stronger, Madden said he hopes taxes on employers can be reduced, and that companies will use the savings to create jobs.

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