November 4, 2009
After weeks of partisan debate, the Senate voted on Wednesday to lengthen unemployment benefits by up to 20 weeks and to extend the $8,000 homebuyer tax credit.
The closely watched legislation would extend jobless benefits in all states by 14 weeks. Those that live in states with unemployment greater than 8.5% would receive an additional six weeks. The proposal would be funded by extending a longstanding federal unemployment tax on employers through June 30, 2011.
The measure would apply to those whose benefits will run out by Dec. 31, which is nearly two million people, according to Senate estimates. Those whose checks have already stopped would be able to reapply for another round.
The vote was 98 to 0.
The legislation also would extend the $8,000 homebuyer tax credit to contracts signed by April 30 and closed by June 30. The controversial credit, which many say has boosted home sales in recent months, was set to expire after Nov. 30.
The Senate’s bill also created a $6,500 credit for those who buy a home after owning one for the last five years. That measure would apply to contracts signed by April 30 and closed by June 30. The current credit defines a first-time homebuyer as someone who has not owned a residence within the past three years.
The Senate bill would raise the adjusted gross income cap to $125,000 for single filers and $225,000 for joint filers. The amount of the credit currently begins to phase out for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is more than $75,000, or $150,000 for joint filers.
“It’s gonna put people back to work, the home builders, put people in the real estate business,” said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. “The kind of jobs that can make a difference.”
The extension will cost $10.8 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
It’s also been the target of fraud. Some 74,000 people claimed more than $500 million in credits even though they may not be first-time homeowners, according to Treasury officials. And more than 580 children, including some as young as 4-years-old, have claimed the credit.
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