WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today urged the extension of unemployment insurance to support Ohio’s dislocated workers and their families through December 31, 2010. Nearly 200,000 Ohioans will lose these emergency benefits if unemployment insurance is not extended by the end of the month.

“Too many middle class families are struggling to get by,” Brown said. “This legislation will help Ohioans and all Americans who worked hard and played by the rules but are still struggling to find jobs. We must extend unemployment insurance while passing critical jobs legislation that will give incentives to businesses that hire unemployed workers.”

In a letter to Senate Leadership, Senator Brown called for full federal funding of the Extended Benefit program, increasing state and federal benefits by $25 per week, and the suspension of the federal income tax on an individual’s first $2,400 of unemployment benefits. Brown is also seeking an additional six months of extended benefits.       

As of mid-February, more than 432,000 Ohioans were receiving unemployment compensation. Almost half of these Ohioans, nearly 200,000, will lose these benefits if unemployment insurance is not extended by the end of the month. In addition, more than 232,000 Ohioans receiving extended benefits will be ineligible for the next phase of benefits if no extension is passed.

Eligible workers may receive up to 26 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits. Previous extensions created two tiers of additional coverage: Tier 1, which provides up to 20 additional weeks of benefits, and Tier 2, which provides up to 13 additional weeks of benefits. The latest extension, passed in Nov. 2009, added one additional week to the Tier 2 benefits and created two new tiers: Tier 3 (up to 13 additional weeks of benefits) and Tier 4 (up to 6 additional weeks of benefits for workers in hard-hit states like Ohio).

Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) sought to temporarily extend benefits. However, Reid’s bill was blocked by Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).