$54M jobless cushion.


Byline: Matthew Bruun

BOSTON - The federal government has delivered a $54.2 million cushion to the state's unemployment trust fund, with more money on the way if prospective amendments to state law are approved by the Legislature.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick and Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Suzanne M. Bump discussed the stimulus allocation with U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis during a conference call with reporters yesterday afternoon.

Last month, the governor filed legislation that would extend, from 18 weeks to 26 weeks, the amount of time someone in a certified job training program can receive unemployment benefits. If the legislation is approved, Mr. Patrick said yesterday, it will help Massachusetts avail itself of another $108 million in federal stimulus funds.

"We're working very hard to make ourselves fully eligible for the remaining two-thirds," the governor told Ms. Solis during the conference call.

The first $54 million, which Ms. Solis said is "coming your way," will augment the state's unemployment trust fund, which now stands at around $900 million, Ms. Bump said. Massachusetts qualified for the funds available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by allowing workers to use their more recent earnings to qualify for benefits.

"We are frankly better off than many states in terms of our unemployment trust fund," Mr. Patrick said. "This gives us a little more cushion."

"Massachusetts is a trailblazer at understanding the importance of providing economic security to workers who have entered the workforce recently and lost their jobs through no fault of their own," Ms. Solis said in a statement issued after the conference call yesterday. "The commonwealth's law exceeds federal requirements and provides vital assistance to workers."

"As families...

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