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California long-term job-seekers' benefits threatened

July 16, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The California economy is improving, construction jobs are rebounding and home prices are on the rise. And state tax revenue is $2 billion above forecast. But go to your local Employment Development Office, and the long-term unemployed say they haven't shared in the recovery.

"You can still go out on the streets every day and still see people looking for work, families not really having places to stay. So truly, in my eyes, the economy is not getting too much better," said job-seeker Elijah Moore.

The situation is about to get worse for them.

Ten weeks of extended unemployment benefits will likely be chopped off next month going from the maximum 73 weeks to 63, essentially eliminating what's called Tier 4.

This is not one of those situations where Congress can step in at the last minute and extend benefits: The cut is based on jobless statistics.

Looking at the unemployment rate, if California's three-month average falls below 9 percent, the federal government automatically stops funding the last 10 weeks of benefits.

The state's numbers have been showing a steady decline. So much so that the state is on track to meet the three-month threshold when June's rate is announced on Friday.

"Tier 4 benefits became available, first payable in California, back in February 2010. Since that time we've paid out more than $3 billion in Tier 4 extension benefits," said Loree Levy, California Employment Development Dept. "So it's really been very critical sustenance to help people, the long-term unemployed."

"Lawrence" didn't want to be identified, but the unemployed security guard is worried about what 10 fewer weeks of checks will mean for his family.

"What shall we use even to eat? To transport ourselves somewhere to go and look for the job?" said Lawrence.

For others, it means the clock is ticking.

"It definitely makes you put double-time on my finding a job," said Elijah Moore.

There's a slight hope among the long-term unemployed that Friday's numbers will show an uptick in the jobless rate, so their additional 10 weeks will stay intact.


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