Congress set to curb jobless aid

With the threat of a presidential veto hanging over them, both houses of Congress Tuesday moved toward passing a stripped-down version of aid for the long-time unemployed. The bill, which as of this writing faces full House and Senate approval, would permit jobless workers currently enrolled in the Federal Supplemental Compensation program to continue receiving checks for as long as 14 weeks.

But no new claimants would be eligible for the program, which officially expired Sunday. The program was designed as emergency aid for those who have exhausted all other jobless benefits.

About 325,000 people now on unemployment benefits face an immediate cut-off unless some type of relief wins passage and a presidential signature.

Some House Democrats have pushed for extending the program for three months, at a cost of up to $430 million. But leaders in both houses doubted such a plan would escape a Reagan veto and are attempting to salvage some assistance to the long-term jobless.

Cost of providing benefits during a phase-out of the program has been set as high as $180 million.

Congress ``ought to do what's do-able,'' said Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D) of Illinois, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday as he joined Republicans to vote for the phase-out. ``The question is whether or not we can get the bill signed.''

``My intention is to get the best arrangement possible that won't be vetoed,'' said Sen. Bob Packwood (R) of Oregon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, as the panel met Tuesday and voted to phase-out the supplemental jobless program.

About 8.9 million Americans are currently looking for jobs, and about 1.4 million of these have been searching for more than six months.

An additional 1.3 million jobless have been categorized as ``discouraged workers'' who no longer actively seek employment.

The percentage of jobless workers receiving benefits has dropped sharply since 1980.

Less than half of the 8.9 million persons out of work in February received unemployment compensation, and an average of only 34 percent received such benefits during 1984. In 1977, the percentage was 56. Chart: Extended jobless benefits (Weekly average claims filed, in hundreds of thousands) 1982 Oct 807 Nov 897 Dec 708 1983 Jan 936 Feb 953 Mar 691 Apr 1,117 May 1,445 June 1,086 July 849 Aug 737 Sept 655 Oct 522 Nov 901 Dec 731 1984 Jan 584 Feb 489 Mar 444 Apr 401 May 374 June 352 July 342 Aug 322 Sept 307 Oct 289 Nov 295 Dec 305 1985 Jan 326 Feb 327 Mar* 332.5 *First two weeks of the month Source: US Department of Labor -- 30 --

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