By Tom Raum
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Is there any downside to extending federal jobless benefits, as Congress is about to do? The benefits are a crucial lifeline to the longtime unemployed. But they also can be a disincentive to looking for work and prolong joblessness, economists say, as lawmakers weigh shortening them.
If Congress does nothing, the current law that provides federal benefits to augment state assistance that last for only 26 weeks will expire at the end of this month. As a result, more than a million out-of-work Americans could lose their benefits in January, and a total of five million could lose them by year's end.