The measure would implement an option provided to states by federal legislation that was approved last year.
It allows them to extend benefits for much -- if not all -- of 2011, as long the state's unemployment rate equals or exceeds 110 percent of the jobless rates for the same periods in 2008 or 2009.
Since New Jersey's unemployment rate for those periods ranged from 4.2 percent to 6 percent, far below the state's current rate of 9.1 percent, it would likely receive permission to extend benefits if it becomes law.
The Assembly approved the bill March 14, adopting legislation that had been passed in the state Senate about a month earlier.
It was not known when or if Christie would act on the legislation. His spokesman, Michael Drewniak, declined to comment on the governor's plans, and Christie has not addressed the matter.
Proponents of the bill say they hope the Republican governor will move quickly to sign the measure into law.
"This is the right thing to do," said Assemblyman Dan Benson, D-Hamilton (Mercer County), who was among the bill's primary sponsors in that chamber. "We can't sit idly by. We need to take advantage of any federal program that will help our workers in their time of need."
Besides Benson, other primary sponsors in the Assembly were Democrats Joseph Egan of New Brunswick and Wayne DeAngelo of Hamilton (Mercer County). In the Senate, it was sponsored by Democrats Fred Madden of Turnersville and James Beach of Voorhees.
"Changing the trigger for unemployment benefits will help those who have fallen on hard times continue to provide a home, food and other essentials for their families," Madden said. "While more certainly needs to be done to create jobs and economic growth, this measure is a good step forward in aiding the unemployed."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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