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Extending Unemployment

Officials say longer benefits good, bad for region

December 26, 2010
By MIKE ZUMMO, The Leader-Herald

When President Barack Obama signed legislation last week cutting taxes, the package also included the extension of unemployment benefits to many of the nation's unemployed.

According to the New York State Labor Department, 885 people in Fulton County and another 923 in Montgomery County were receiving emergency unemployment compensation, as of Dec. 3, which extended beyond the regular 26 weeks or regular unemployment benefits.

Those who exhausted their emergency unemployment compensation by Aug. 15 were eligible for another six weeks, and with extended benefits were able to get coverage for an additional 20 weeks, bringing the total to 99 weeks. Those who used their compensation after Aug. 15, moved directly to extended benefits and only had coverage for 93 weeks.

Article Photos

Cindy Mahoney, standing, Workforce
Solutions Resource Room coordinator, works with Jean Stoffolano, work force adviser, during a training session in Gloversville on Tuesday.
The Leader-Herald/ Bill Trojan

The deal signed by the president allows some to get an additional 13 weeks of coverage.

"It could be a relief, but one of the problems we're having with the long-term unemployed is there's big skill jobs that are opening up are not the same [they previously held]," said Gail Breen, the executive director of Workforce Solutions of Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie Counties.

Last month, the state labor department predicted about 200,000 New Yorkers would run out of long-term unemployment benefits by the end of the year, with the possibility of that number doubling by May 1, 2011.

According to a news release, 4,000 people in the Mohawk Valley, which includes Fulton and Montgomery counties, were projected to run out of unemployment insurance benefits by the end of the year. The department's projection more than doubled to 9,000 for May 1.

Statistics were identical for the North County region, which includes Hamilton County.

Through October, 107,000 New Yorkers exhausted their 93 or 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.

"For people who are collecting unemployment, it's a welcome extension," Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce President Deborah Auspelmyer said. "It gives them an opportunity to support the local economy while they seek employment."

However, there are drawbacks.

"The big concern is that a lot of the jobs [lost] are not coming back," Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said. "We're extending benefits to people that are not going to end up back in the same positions."

Auspelmyer said the extension extends business's commitment to cover the unemployment insurance of someone it let go.

"What we would like to see, perhaps, are more extensions or relief for business owners as they struggle to recover from the economy," Auspelmyer said.

Breen and Stead echoed the concern that the jobs that some long-term unemployed workers previously held won't return in the same form.

"Chances are they can't get that job because they don't have the skill set," Breen said. "We're trying to provide guidance to get them qualified with additional math and reading so they are more competitive for advanced manufacturing jobs."

Fulton County's unemployment rate was 10.1 percent in November, a 1 percent increase from October, while unemployment in Montgomery County jumped to 9.1 percent in November from 8.5 percent in October. To the north, Hamilton County's unemployment jumped nearly 3 percent to 9.4 percent last month.

Mike Zummo is the business editor. He can be reached at



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