1.3 Million to Lose Jobless Benefits

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(Courtesy: MGN Online)

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) — Kerstin Foster depends on her $430 weekly unemployment check to make her rent, car payment and electricity bill. That’s why she’s worried about being cut off at the end of the year.

Foster, 45, is a single mom raising a 12-year-old son in Naugatuck, Conn. She was laid off in January from a civil engineering construction job, but believes she’s close to landing a new job. She also knows it could still be a few more months before she is actually hired.

“I don’t know if I should buy my son Christmas presents,” Foster said.

Looming in front of her is the week of Dec. 28, when she and 1.3 million other jobless Americans are scheduled to lose federal unemployment benefits.

That’s when an emergency program to help the long-term unemployed like Foster will expire. During the Great Recession of 2007-2009, when the unemployment rate climbed to more than 10%, the government extended federal benefits to jobless Americans, whose state unemployment insurance had run out.

Those benefits have been either extended or expanded 11 times, since being first enacted in June 2008. The last time was in Jan. 2, as part of a measure to avert the “fiscal cliff.”

The federal unemployment insurance benefits kick in after a person’s state benefits run out, and range between 14 to 47 weeks, depending on the state.

Only residents in Nevada and Illinois have access to the maximum 47 weeks, according to the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group. Most states have cut back unemployment benefits, as employment has picked up. The national unemployment rate was at 7.3% in October.

Unemployed Americans have already felt the pinch of government cuts. This past summer, thanks to forced spending cuts from the so-called sequester, all federal unemployment benefits were trimmed by about $42 each week, to $256.

Those sequester cuts really hurt Peter Digricoli, 47, of Bridgewater, N.J., who lost his job last November. As a director of food services for a nursing home he made $80,000 a year.

He now works a few hours a day helping the disabled, making $10.25 an hour. Working part time has also reduced his unemployment benefits to about $300 a week. Next month, even those hours will be cut, so he has another part-time job lined up at Macy’s to work the holiday sales.

He’s worried about the Dec. 28 cuts.

“I really don’t think Congress understands that ending the benefits in December is going to have a very big impact on a lot of people,” said Digricoli, whose wife also works two jobs.

On their tight budget, he worries if he will be able to afford Christmas presents for his 15-year-old son.

The cost to extend the federal benefits by another year is about $25 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Democrats support the extension.

But Republicans have been cool to the idea, noting they have yet to see a proposal. Republicans say the program was intended to be temporary and has cost $252 billion through July. That’s more than other unemployment insurance programs during the recessions of 2001, 1991, and 1982, according to a House Republican website.

Lately, Republicans have been pushing to trim other safety nets for the poor.

As of September, the average time that people get unemployment benefits is 37 weeks. Some 37% of the roughly 11 million people currently unemployed have been jobless for more than six months, according to NELP.

“There are still clear signs of a labor market in distress,” said policy analyst Claire McKenna for NELP, which is supporting extending the benefits. “This is the only federal policy that addresses long-term unemployment.”

Both Digricoli and Foster said they didn’t imagine they’d be unemployed so long.

Foster said she still wakes up every morning at 4:30 a.m., like she has during her 20 years on the job.

“I’ve worked my whole entire life. I’ve never not worked. I can’t wait to go back to work,” said Foster, as she fretted about how she was going to make ends meet without the unemployment check.

By Jennifer Liberto


  • Bre

    How can you be out of work that long? Every retail store is hiring, Nearly every gas station and fast food is hiring.

    Yeah I dont want to flip burgers or wash dishes but I’ll do what it takes to raise my family. Not cry because the governemtn is finally cutting my benefits for being lazy.

    • Kim

      Amen! And how come in both stories the people are worried about buying x-mas presents? What about rent/mortgage, groceries, heat etc.? There are many organizations out there to help with all of those, even presents if that’s their biggest worry!

      • Tina

        They may be worried about buying those gifts because they already have been setting money aside for rent and such. It’s something that they’ve always been able to do for their children, and they hate that they just cannot do that for their children.

    • Steve Louden

      You reap what you sow. The loss of jobs and the rise in unemployment, and the cutting of wages has set this country on a downward spiral. The only people who get hired “flipping burgers” are kids. what about uis old fogies who, because of our age, can’t get hired? People like you paint everyone with the same paint brush! You just don’t get it!

  • Dave Warner

    Our illustrious Government at work once again. THEY put US in situations that cause US to suffer, while THEY continue to thrive. THEY keep their paychecks while WE lose OURS. I’ll bet THEIR kids have a great Christmas while OURS…………well, you know……

  • Sarah

    I live in Ohio…. I was laid off in February. I have applied not only to jobs within my experience, below and beyond…. I’ve had 5 interviews within this time….. I’m not sitting at home being lazy… I’m out there everyday, online and dropping off my resume to companies that’s not even hiring. Yes I worry about my rent, electric, gas ect ect ect…… It’s tough because for every one company hundreds of people are applying for the same position. So it’s easy for people with jobs to slander the people who are without a job….. I’ve always worked since I was 14 and supported myself since I was 16 so understand that it’s not everyone.

  • Sarah

    1.3 Millions isn’t exactly a drop in a bucket……. We are not at home on welfare making babies…. Well at least I’m not lol…..

  • Bre

    Listen to the story foster gets $430/wk!!!! Thats $10.75/hr getting paid to sit at home.

    The to post about the government keeping their checks while cutting yours. True. But they also went to college and did something with their life.

    I get to keep my checks but I work for a living so this wont effect me. Cut them down to minimum wage and see if they can survive.

  • Renee Vlna

    Sorry, I love Christmas and right now I am waiting for SS disability. I’m not working can’t collect unemployment or even Medicaid because my husbands ss and pension. (which isn’t much) is too much to get help. Even growing up my dad worked 2 jobs just to make ends meet. You sit and wonder if you can afford Christmas presents especially at the ages of the kids mentioned. If you brought them up right they should understand that maybe Christmas might be a little late or just home made gifts.Christmas isn’t about gifts. What you should be worried about is where your meal will come from after the benefits stop. Ask yourself “do I want a roof over my head or a toy for my kid that he can play with at the homeless shelter.”

  • Jasmine

    You are all not thinking! Daycare is also expensive so if they have children and they are looking for work they also will have to be picky with the type of job they get, working two jobs like at fast food, or gas stations ain’t going to pay for daycare! Minimum wage is extremely low! To me I feel it’s quite important to be able to hae quality time with your kids, not have to work all hours of the day paying bills! Then we all see why we have kids gettin into trouble, no parent to guide! So I doubt a lot of these people unemployed are not just sitting on the butts, just collecting!

  • 001169

    You simply cannot expect government assistance for Christmas gifts. Yeah, I like free things too, and would hate to be left out on the holidays, but again, that is not the function of a responsible government!

  • Bre

    Well when my kids grow up they will look at me and say “My dad worked his butt off to provide this life for me.”

    I would feel horrible if my kids grew up and looked at me wondering how I got government benefits free and how they can get on welfare.

  • Debbie Michaels

    If you worked in Florida like I have they have a screwy way to figure how much you get in unemployment. It is only to help you while you try to get back in the work force. Once you regular benefits run out then the EU (emergenct unemployment) kicks in It is a 4 tier system. Once you are done…..your’re done. You have to look for work by in person or computer.You register with them and they try to help you with either job sites or whatever you need. But once you stop looking or loose your benifits, you are no longer part of the equastion. They are ruining peoples lives not just in Fla, but all over. You can’t collect it forever!!

  • Amy

    My husband has been laid off since last march from a job making 70000 a year. I’m sorry, his unemployment is way more than going to work at just any fast food place. You people that say “just go get another job” obviously don’t have one that pays a lot of money. Oh and by the way, my husband didn’t go to college and that doesn’t make him a bit lazy or stupid. He makes more money than a good percentage of people that did go to college. Every situation is different. U can’t just say someone without a degree is lazy. My husband was fighting for our country while you were gettig your degrees!

  • Sarah


  • Amber Blonski

    I agree with Sarah’s comment above. I have been unemployed since December 2012. I was a Sr. Financial Aid Officer for four years. I have never gone unemployed for longer than six months since I have been 15 yrs old. I do have an Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Assistance. I have been on dozens of interviews since then. I am either too-qualified, or need a Bachelor’s Degree for what I do. Not to mention I have made some financial mistakes when I was growing up which still haunt me today (ie credit score, repossession of a car, going to college). Anyways, I have applied at fast food, gas stations, delis, colleges, restaurants, the Rocksino, and everywhere just to get a job. Nothing is working. I am not lazy and I spend 8-10 hrs a day posting resumes and searching for work whether it is online or in person via public transportation. Then my daughter gets home and it’s her time until 9:00 pm. I have worked for 20 yrs and have paid my taxes diligently. Why is it that when I need some help, I have to be considered lazy and on welfare?

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