Mass. Changes Law To Extend Jobless Benefits

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A last-minute change in state law brings 20 additional weeks of unemployment benefits for Massachusetts residents struggling to find jobs.

If eligible, the unemployed now stand to receive up to 79 weeks of benefits. Gov. Deval Patrick signed the legislation into law earlier this month, just days before 25,000 unemployed residents would have lost federal benefits.

The law changed how the state determines whether residents are eligible for a federal extension of benefits. The state now uses the percentage of all unemployed workers when determining eligibility. It had been relying on the number of workers eligible for unemployment insurance, which does not include the self-employed and others.

Massachusetts offers the highest unemployment compensation in the country at up to $650 a week. The average payment is about $400 a week.

The state's jobless rate hit 8.6 percent in June, its highest level in nearly 17 years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This program aired on July 21, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.