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Idaho pays out record in unemployment benefits

Thu., Jan. 7, 2010, 10:09 a.m.

POCATELLO, Idaho — Idaho borrowed $108 million in interest-free loans from the federal government in 2009 to help pay a record amount in unemployment insurance benefits to out-of-work residents, according to state records.

And Idaho officials expect to borrow another $80 million the first four months of this year to pay unemployment benefits.

“Other states are in far worse shape than we are,” Georgia Smith, director of communications and research for the Idaho Department of Labor, told the Idaho State Journal.

The state paid $643 million in unemployment benefits last year. About $403 million was in regular benefits paid through the Idaho trust fund. The other $240 million was paid through federal extended benefits programs.

In 2008, Idaho paid out $247 million, the previous record.

The number of Idaho residents collecting unemployment insurance benefits rose from 81,000 in 2008 to 116,750 in 2009.

The Idaho Department of Labor said it expects regular benefits paid out in 2010 to reach about $265 million.

The agency said that about half of the Idaho residents receiving state benefits were unemployed long enough that they received federally funded benefits before finding a new job.

The unemployment insurance tax rate Idaho businesses pay this year has risen to 3.36 percent from 1.56 percent last year to help pay those benefits. The rate was 1 percent in 2008.

“It’s just an additional cost for businesses in an already tight economy,” said Cathy Judge, corporate controller for Varsity Contractors, which employs more than 100 people in Pocatello. “We’ll take a hit. We’ll just have to find other places to cut.”

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