Senate Approves More Benefits for Hurricane Evacuees

Thirteen-week unemployment aid extension for both Katrina and Rita evacuees just in time

The Senate voted Friday to extend by 13 weeks the amount of time evacuees of both hurricanes Katrina and Rita can receive federal unemployment benefits. About 90,000 Katrina evacuees from the state of Louisiana alone will receive extended benefits, said Louisiana Department of Labor Press Secretary Ed Pratt, about 19,500 of whom currently have Texas addresses. The Texas Workforce Commission has filed about 64,235 claims for unemployment benefits from the 22 counties impacted by Hurricane Rita last September, said Deputy Communications Director Ann Hatchitt. The commission is in the process of figuring out how many of these people are still receiving unemployment benefits, Hatchitt said.

The Senate had already approved a bill extending Katrina evacuee benefits, but it didn't pertain to Rita evacuees. The House, however, unanimously passed a bill Thursday that included Rita evacuees. As a result, the legislation had to go back to the Senate for approval. The bill is now on to the President for his signature. "We expect everything to be done by [sometime] next week at the latest," Pratt said.

Most Katrina evacuees' benefits are currently slated to run out Saturday, while most Rita evacuees' benefits are scheduled to end March 25.

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