Unemployment Benefits Cost: $520 Billion

Source:  Tami Luhby / CNN Money

NEW YORK – Jobless Americans have collected more than half a trillion dollars in benefits over the past five years.

State and federal unemployment insurance programs have cost roughly $520 billion, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released Wednesday.

The price of continuing this safety net will be the subject of intense debate in Congress as lawmakers decide whether to extend the deadline to file for federal benefits beyond year’s end as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. Extending federal jobless insurance next year could cost as much as $30 billion, according to the CBO analysis.

Here’s how it works: The jobless generally receive up to 26 weeks of state benefits and then shift to federal emergency unemployment compensation, which is broken into four tiers and lasts up to 47 weeks. There is a separate federal extended benefits program, which provides up to 20 weeks, but only New Yorkers are eligible for it at this time.

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