“I Just Don’t Know What To Do, Except Pray”
Unemployment Benefits Lapse Severs Lifeline for Longtime Jobless
Laura Walker, a 63-year-old paralegal, has been looking for work since January, when she was laid off from a California law firm. Until today, she could count on $450 a week in federal unemployment benefits for help.
Now, those checks will disappear, just as they will for 1.3 million other Americans whose emergency aid ran out Dec. 28.
“Not all of us have savings and a lot of us have to take care of family because of what happened in the economy,” said Walker, of Santa Clarita, who said she has applied for at least three jobs a week and shares an apartment with her unemployed son, his wife and two children. “It’s going to put my family and me out on the streets.”
The program, started during the recession, was intended to help jobless people after they exhausted state benefits, typically lasting six months. House Republicans resisted continuing the benefits without budget cuts elsewhere to cover the cost. Keeping it running another year would cost $25 billion and spur the economy enough to create about 200,000 jobs, the Congressional Budget Office estimated.
“It lacks compassion for the victims of the recession and, economically, it’s shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, which backs policies that help low-income workers. “The timing is very premature. The evidence is that people who want work can’t find it.”