Senate votes to extend aid for jobless, homebuyers
WASHINGTON - - Recognizing that a weak economy still needs a government boost, the Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to provide the jobless with up to 20 weeks in additional unemployment benefits and expand a first-time homebuyer tax credit to include a far larger pool of people entering the dormant housing market. The $24 billion bill, passed 98-0, also provides tax relief for struggling businesses. It comes to the rescue of more than 1 million out-of-work people who will run out of benefits by the end of the year. Everyone will receive 14 weeks of additional benefits, while those in states with unemployment rates of 8.5 percent and above get six weeks on top of that. The $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers, enacted as part of the stimulus package last February and set to expire this month, would be extended and expanded to include a $6,500 credit for people who have lived in their current residences at least five years. The legislation now goes to the House, which is expected to quickly approve it and send it to President Barack Obama for his signature.
$24 million OK'd for stadium-related projects
The Board of Public Works has approved about $24 million in stadium-related projects, including a new scoreboard at M&T; Bank Stadium. The new scoreboard will cost about $4 million to replace the one that has been in place since the stadium opened in 1998. The board on Wednesday also approved $10 million to make structural improvements at Camden Yards. Another $10 million was approved to pay for energy conservation measures at the two stadiums. The money comes from the Maryland Stadium Authority's budget.
Port of Baltimore surpasses record of cruise passengers
With two months to go, the port of Baltimore has surpassed its previous record for cruise passenger boardings in a single year. According to the Maryland Port Administration, 125,248 passengers left Baltimore on 60 cruises through Oct. 22. The passenger total easily surpassed the previous record of 104,253 boardings on 60 cruises set in 2004. The port expects to reach a total of about 165,000 on 81 cruises by the end of this year - the first in which it is offering all-season service. This year's record is not expected to last long. The port has scheduled 92 cruise departures next year as Royal Caribbean joins Carnival in offering year-round service. Other shipping lines offering cruises out of Baltimore's South Locust Point passenger terminal this year include Norwegian Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises and Dellmann. Port officials estimated the economic impact of this year's cruising will reach $152 million, compared with about $63 million last year.