Congress keeps $30 million in jobless benefits flowing to Conn.

The State Labor Department said this week about 40,000 Connecticut residents will be eligible for up to 47 additional weeks of unemployment after Congress passed a measure extending benefits. The department said it pays out more than $30 million in benefits every week.

It’s a huge piece of the economy and as part of what the Yosemite Sam portion of the Republican Party calls entitlement spending, it is expected to be a topic of discussion as Congress decides how to trim the budget in two months. Other entitlements include food stamps, social security and medicare.

The Congress passed the extended benefits measure in the face of a weak job market that until December, had not been creating enough jobs to even keep up with population growth. The nation added 155,000 jobs in December, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Connecticut’s December report is due out later this month.

In the mean time, Connecticut’s Labor Department encouraged people claiming additional benefits to use the webbenefits filing system because the department’s telephone call centers are overwhelmed with people filing first time claims after losing seasonal jobs. However, the department on its website noted its website will be down for about a half hour for maintenance on Saturday.

Rob Varnon