SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)- California’s Employment Development Department paid a record amount in unemployment benefits last year, as the Golden State’s high unemployment rate drove 1.7 million Californians to seek jobless benefits. The numbers are staggering, and it’s all due to the economic downturn.

KCBS’ Melissa Culross Reports:

“Through this recession regular benefits that have been paid have been higher, and in addition we’ve also been paying federal extension benefits,” said California Employment Development Department spokeswoman Loree Levy. “With those two combined we paid a total of $22.9 billion in 2010.”

Levy said the $22.9 billion payout broke the record previously set in 2009 when EDD paid $20 billion in benefits.

With unemployment in California still above 12 percent, the benefits are critical not only for jobless residents, but also for the state’s economy, because Levy said, the money acts as a type of stimulus for businesses.

“Typically these benefits are used to pay for the basics for families such as food and shelter, gas and so forth, so then it’s also a means of keeping local businesses afloat,” said Levy.

Levy says the amount of unemployment paid last year averages to about $90 million per business day.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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