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Missouri May Reject Extending Jobless Benefits

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Thousands of jobless people in Missouri are set to lose extended federal unemployment benefits unless state lawmakers take action. But as NPR's Tamara Keith reports, some want the state to turn down the money.

TAMARA KEITH: The bill, now awaiting approval in the Missouri State Senate, is basically a minor technical fix to keep federal funds flowing to the very long- term unemployed. These are people who've been out of work for between 79 weeks and 99 weeks. If the bill isn't approved, unemployment checks to some 13,000 people will be cut off April 2nd. Another 10,000 people would lose benefits within weeks.

GEORGE WENTWORTH: It seems to us like a very easy policy choice.

KEITH: George Wentworth is a senior staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project.

WENTWORTH: I don't see any good reason why you would cut off unemployment benefits that are federally funded at this time in the economy.

KEITH: Jim Lembke, who is leading the charge, says just look at the huge federal budget deficit.

JIM LEMBKE: It's not that I don't have compassion for people that do not have jobs. It is that we have a federal government that is out of control, and the states need to start saying to the federal government: Quit sending us money that you do not have.

KEITH: Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.