Congress must extend unemployment benefits: Pelosi

WASHINGTON Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:15pm EDT

Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) talk before President Barack Obama's address to a Joint Session of Congress in Washington, September 9, 2009. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) talk before President Barack Obama's address to a Joint Session of Congress in Washington, September 9, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress must extend unemployment benefits before they expire for the 1.5 million Americans who risk exhausting them, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday.

"We cannot let that run out," Pelosi said at a news conference. "It's pretty clear cut ... this is very necessary for us to address that."

Pelosi did not say when the House intends to act.

The unemployment rate stood at 9.7 percent in August, the highest figure since 1983, and is expected to remain high well into next year even as the economy recovers from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Roughly 6 million people were collecting long-term unemployment benefits at the end of August, according to the Labor Department.

Some 1.5 million unemployed Americans could exhaust those benefits by the end of the year, according to the National Employment Law Project.

Congress has already extended unemployment benefits for up to 79 weeks from the normal 26 weeks. Obama administration officials and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have said they intend to extend them further.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan, editing by Philip Barbara)

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