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Unemployment Relief Expands Bush Plan Extends Benefits for Jobs Lost In Attacks

By Warren Vieth and Janet Hook

President Bush on Thursday proposed a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits and $3 billion more in emergency grants for some people thrown out of work by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the expanded unemployment benefits would be available only in the hardest-hit states, and other proposals rely on existing programs and previously appropriated funds. Congressional Democrats said the package falls short of what is needed to help the growing ranks of unemployed.

“I think we’ve got to go farther,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

Bush’s aid package for the unemployed is one of three main components of the economic stimulus plan he wants Congress to approve. The other two, which administration officials are shaping, will feature tax cuts designed to give individuals more money to spend and to provide incentives for businesses to invest.

The president outlined his worker assistance package amid new signs that the Sept. 11 attacks are contributing to mounting job losses as the U.S. economy succumbs to what increasingly looks and feels like a recession.

The number of workers filing new applications for unemployment benefits rose to a nine-year high last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The number of initial claims jumped 71,000 to 528,000, the highest level since mid-1992.

The figures reflect a wave of layoffs by U.S. airlines and other industries directly affected by the terrorist strikes.

Since Sept. 11, 200,807 job cuts have been announced, according to the outplacement consulting company of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Layoff announcements totaled 248,332 for the entire month, a record.

The president outlined a worker assistance plan consisting of two main elements:

--A 13-week extension of unemployment benefits, currently limited to 26 weeks, for workers who lose their jobs after Sept. 11

--An additional $3 billion for “national emergency grants” to help cover the cost of health insurance for displaced workers and provide income to those who don’t qualify for unemployment benefits.