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Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joseph Egan, Daniel Benson and Wayne DeAngelo to take advantage of a federal law that allows laid-off workers in New Jersey to continue to receive extended unemployment benefits for much, if not all, of 2011, has been signed into law.

The bill (A-3795) implements an option provided by the federal Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 to allow extended benefits.

The federal option makes it likely that extended benefits will be continued, because the unemployment rate in New Jersey would have to be no more than 110% of the 2008 jobless rates of between 4.2 percent to 6.0 percent, far below the current rate of 9.1 percent.

The continuation of benefits under this bill will incur no costs to New Jersey’s unemployment fund or employers in the state, because the federal act provides 100 percent federal funding of the benefits through Dec. 31. Under the federal act, both the 100 percent federal funding and the greater availability of benefits under the trigger option, as implemented by this bill, expire simultaneously.

“Ensuring continued assistance for out-of-work New Jerseyans is an absolute must,” said Egan (D-Middlesex). “This an important step toward ensuring working class New Jerseyans get sustained help when they need it most.”

“Given the prolonged high unemployment rate in our state, extending these benefits throughout most, if not all, of this year, is the right thing to do,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We can’t sit idly by. We need to take advantage of any federal program that will help our workers in their time of need.”

For Benson, who recently joined the Assembly in January, today’s signing marks the first bill he has sponsored that has been signed into law.

“We must utilize every opportunity we can to keep out-of-work New Jerseyans afloat until the economy rebounds,” DeAngelo said. “We cannot turn our backs on a simple step that can extend benefits. We must ensure workers who find themselves unemployed for long periods can they help they so direly need.”

The bill was approved unanimously by both houses of the legislature earlier this year.