Calif. eyeing Senate unemployment relief vote

SACRAMENTO California's employment development offices are still packed during this recession with people looking for work online, in job binders, flyers, anywhere.

Juan Castro is one of the state's 400,000 long-term unemployed. His unemployment checks stopped more than a month ago because Congress failed to renew another extension of benefits. It would have been Castro's fourth extension.

"I'm pleading to /*Democrats*/ as well as /*Republicans*/," Castro said. "You guys need to come together. America needs you right now."

A crucial vote is expected in the /*Senate*/ on Tuesday where they'll try for a fourth time to extend unemployment benefits.

President /*Barack Obama*/ urged passage, especially harping on Republicans who have concerns about the $34 billion price tag.

"We've got a responsibility to help them make ends meet and support their families, even as they're looking for another job," Obama said.

A new West Virginia Senator, though, if sworn in on time, is expected to give Democrats the votes needed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.

Still, until passage happens, Californians are anxious.

"In a couple of weeks, my mortgage is due," said Michele Baird, who is also on long-term unemployment. "I've got to come up with the money for my mortgage."

While the latest Congressional action could help the jobless move from one extension tier to the next, another 150,000 Californians won't benefit because they have exhausted all five extensions - 99 weeks.

"Once you've come up at the end of those 99 weeks, or close to that, there's nothing further for anyone," said Loree Levy with the /*California Employment Development Department*/.

The state's economy could suffer more as fewer checks are spent.

California had been sending out about $90 million a day in unemployment benefits. Without the extensions, it's down to $65 million a day.

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