Jobless Benefits About To Run Out - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Jobless Benefits About To Run Out

SPOKANE, Wash. - It could be a tough holiday season for thousands of local jobless residents.

According to Washington's Employment Security Department, nearly 240,000 residents across the state could lose their unemployment benefits as soon as next month. That's if Congress does not pass an emergency federal unemployment extension. Right now, payments average about $310 a week.

For Mahala Collins, news of the possible expiration has her in "survival mode."  The former firefighter has received benefits since January, and even lived in her car last March. She is now qualified as a dislocated worker after being laid off a second job in May. To sharpen her skills and be considered a competitive candidate, she's taking college prep courses at Spokane Community College. Given her financial situation, the courses are free and she is expected to complete them in May. But without benefits to help her pay for rent, Collins says she will be homeless.

"There are some of us working as fast as we can to get back into work," says Collins. "I don't like sitting around, I have a doer personality. I would take that construction job, that landscaping job, because I would prefer it to an office job but if they don't hire me, and I call back and nothing happens, it's like beating a dead horse."

Collins says she's done everything right, but finding work in the current economy depends on a number of  "ifs."  She's applied for seasonal jobs but doesn't have the customer service experience for those positions or the education for other openings. If Congress does not pass the extension, she may be forced to sell her possessions to prevent being homeless.

For the past year, unemployed people could qualify for up to 99 weeks of jobless benefits. It's broken into three chunks: 26 weeks of regular benefits, 53 weeks of emergency benefits, and another 20 weeks of extended benefits.

 

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