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Unemployment extension at stake in Congressional tax showdown

December 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The political showdown in Washington could prove disastrous for many unemployed Californians. State officials Wednesday said unless Congress acts fast, more than 1 million residents will begin losing unemployment extensions at the end of this year.

Yet another day passed in Washington with no resolution on how to pay for the $44 billion it would take to extend unemployment benefits for another year.

And 3,000 miles away, in California, more than 1 million jobless residents, like unemployed sheet-metal worker Matthew Clark, are on pins and needles. Will their unemployment checks continue? At the moment, the answer for many is no.

"It would affect my lifestyle, obviously," said Clark. "I'd have to stop paying a lot of things. It would be difficult."

Without Congressional approval of extensions, people receiving unemployment checks will not be able to receive the next tier of benefits.

Normally, an eligible person could get up to 26 weeks. But in this recession, as many as four extensions are available.

And for the long-term unemployed, a special extension called Fed-Ed makes up to 99 weeks available.

While most recipients could finish their current tier, Fed-Ed runs dry on January 7 for 100,000 Californians.

The Employment Development Department is getting ready to send out warning notices.

"These are people who are wondering 'What am I going to do come the first of the year when my rent comes due?'" said Loree Levy, Calif. Employment Development Department. "This is why we're trying to make sure we go out there and warn people that this potential now exists."

With no prospects of working in his trade as a sheet metal worker, Matthew Clark and millions like him are upset Congress is playing with their lives as they desperately need their lifeline continued.

"Why not make this like a Christmas gift to everybody? Come back and fix it," said Clark.

For every dollar in unemployment benefits, about $2 gets pumped into the economy. Through November, California paid out $15 billion in benefits -- that's $30 billion that may not be in the state's economy in 2012.


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