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Cuts loom in New Mexico unemployment benefits

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- New Mexicans qualifying for extended unemployment benefits starting next month will have their payments reduced by 25 percent because of federal spending cutbacks, state officials announced Wednesday.

The Department of Workforce Solutions estimated the cuts initially could affect 2,100 people.

The reductions won't apply to people currently in the state-funded unemployment compensation program offering 26 weeks of benefits. However, they will face cuts if after June 2 they qualify for assistance through federally financed extensions of benefits, which can continue payments for an additional 28 weeks.

There will be no cuts for New Mexicans already receiving extended benefits unless they exhaust one federal level of assistance lasting up to 14 weeks and move to the final 14-week period of payments.

About 22,000 New Mexicans receive unemployment benefits, with 5,500 of those receiving payments through federal extensions of assistance. Weekly benefits range from $76 to $407.

Workforce Solutions Secretary Celina Bussey said the agency was obligated to implement the reductions, which are required because of across-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration.