Long-Term Jobless Facing New Year Without Aid - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Long-Term Jobless Facing New Year Without Aid

Posted: Updated:
Richard Mattos, 59, looks for jobs at a state-run employment center in Salem, Ore., on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013. Mattos is one of more than 1 million Americans who will lose federal unemployment benefits at year's end. Richard Mattos, 59, looks for jobs at a state-run employment center in Salem, Ore., on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013. Mattos is one of more than 1 million Americans who will lose federal unemployment benefits at year's end.

NBCNEWS.COM - Over a million out-of-work Americans will be ringing in the new year with a lot more uncertainty about the future.

Jobless benefits are slated to expire this weekend for 1.3 million people who receive the long-term federal aid payments that kick in after state insurance payments run out. The emergency benefits, which were instituted during the 2008 recession, allowed many individuals to receive benefits for up to 99 weeks while seeking work. While the program has been extended 11 times, lawmakers failed to reach a year-end agreement to maintain it.

The lapse means more than just fewer presents under the tree for unemployed people like Nancy Connelly-Cumming, a single mother who lives in Newbury Park, Calif.

She's been looking for work since losing her job at a nonprofit group in September 2012. "Absolutely, I couldn't have survived this long without an unemployment benefit," she told NBC News. "That was definitely what kept me going."

Connelly-Cumming said she's been applying for minimum-wage jobs and that she fears losing her home if she stops receiving her aid. "I don't want my children to know," she said. "They're 16 and 14 and they're pretty aware of what's going on but I don't want them to come to the realization that we might not have this home in a couple of months. I don't want them to know that. They don't have to worry. That's my job."

A bipartisan team of senators is pushing for a short-term fix after Congress returns to Washington in January.

Sens. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, and Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, are proposing a three-month extension of the benefits program that would also retroactively pay  the missed checks to the long-term unemployed. Reed said Thursday that he expects the first vote on that proposal to be held Jan. 6.

President Barack Obama called the two lawmakers on Friday from Hawaii to thank them for their proposal and to pledge to fight for its passage, the White House said. 

"This is just enough to keep people going -- in some cases, barely enough to keep people going," Reed said on a conference call with reporters. "Paying the rent, paying for fuel, going to the dollar store, not to upscale shops."

Deborah Barrett, a former accounting manager from Rhode Island who was laid off in February, joined Reed on the call.

"Without the continuation of federal unemployment insurance, I don't know how we'll be able to stay in our home or how we will get by until I land my next job," she said.

Democratic lawmakers had tried to extend the insurance benefits during the December fight over the federal budget, but they failed to insert even a temporary fix in the compromise legislation drafted by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

After the passage of the budget deal, Obama called on Congress to pass the temporary extension as soon as they return from the holiday break.

"Because Congress didn't act, more than 1 million of their constituents will lose a vital economic lifeline at Christmastime, leaving a lot of job-seekers without any source of income at all," Obama said during a year-end press conference. "I think we're a better country than that. We don't abandon each other when times are tough."

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid placed blame for the expiration of benefits squarely with Republicans.

"In the past, Democrats and Republicans have worked together to extend unemployment insurance for those still looking for work," Reid said in a statement last week. "Sadly, Republicans have now decided that they would rather let this program expire than cooperate with Democrats."

Republicans warn that the extension of benefits would increase the deficit by $25 billion, although some have said they are open to some kind of fix if supporters find a way to pay for it.

Other high-profile GOP lawmakers have suggested that continuing the aid could hurt workers in the long run.

"I support unemployment benefits for the 28 weeks they're paid for," Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said on "Fox News Sunday" earlier this month. "If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers."

That's a characterization that recipients of the aid say is out of touch.

"My job search is my full-time job," said Barrett, who said she has been caring for her elderly mother while she looks for work. "I am sick and tired of people insinuating that folks in my position are not really trying to find jobs and are content to remain on unemployment. Such willful ignorance is deplorable."

Connelly-Cumming says she's waited for hours at coffee shops and grocery stores to speak to supervisors about jobs, with no success.

"When you've been out of work so long, you know, people begin to think, "'Well, maybe she doesn't want to work. Surely she can get a job at any of the fast food places,'" she said. "Well, I can't!"

Liberal groups hope to make the GOP pay a political price for its stance.

Progressive organization Americans United for Change has launched a national TV ad blitz slamming Republicans for their stance on the insurance payments.

"Who had a merry Christmas? The richest one percent," a voice in the ad booms. "Republicans in Congress made sure of that, protecting billions in taxpayer giveaways and for those facing tough times, Republicans stripped 1.3 million Americans of jobless benefits — folks who want to work but cannot find a job."

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • PHOTOS: CASH REWARD offered for information leading to the arrest of these FUGITIVES

    PHOTOS: CASH REWARD offered for information leading to the arrest of these FUGITIVES

    Thursday, August 21 2014 9:29 PM EDT2014-08-22 01:29:40 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Crime Stoppers of the Inland Northwest is offering cash rewards for any information leading to the arrest of the fugitives listed on their website as of August 21, 2014. If you recognize any of these fugitives, you are asked call 1-800-222 TIPS.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Crime Stoppers of the Inland Northwest is offering cash rewards for any information leading to the arrest of the fugitives listed on their website as of August 21, 2014. If you recognize any of these fugitives, you are asked call 1-800-222 TIPS.>>
  • PHOTOS: Do you know who this burglary suspect is?

    PHOTOS: Do you know who this burglary suspect is?

    Thursday, August 21 2014 2:25 PM EDT2014-08-21 18:25:51 GMT
    SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. - Detectives with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office are asking for you help finding a man they believe broke into a home, stole credit and debit cards, and then used those cards to purchase hundreds of dollars worth of items. >>
    SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. - Detectives with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office are asking for you help finding a man they believe broke into a home, stole credit and debit cards, and then used those cards to purchase hundreds of dollars worth of items. >>
  • Wheat farmers taking a double hit as prices drop and weather takes its toll

    Wheat farmers taking a double hit as prices drop and weather takes its toll

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 7:29 PM EDT2014-08-20 23:29:24 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Experts with the Washington Grain Commission say wheat production is at its lowest since 2008. Glen Squires with the Washington Grain Commission says the current average price per bushel of wheat is around $6.20 down from last year's price at $7.53. Dry conditions in Eastern Washington is also taking its toll on wheat farmers. >>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Experts with the Washington Grain Commission say wheat production is at its lowest since 2008. Glen Squires with the Washington Grain Commission says the current average price per bushel of wheat is around $6.20 down from last year's price at $7.53. Dry conditions in Eastern Washington is also taking its toll on wheat farmers. >>
  • National NewsMore>>

  • Investigators: Pentagon broke the law in swap for Sgt. Bergdahl

    Investigators: Pentagon broke the law in swap for Sgt. Bergdahl

    Thursday, August 21 2014 4:08 PM EDT2014-08-21 20:08:21 GMT
    KHQ.COM- Congressional investigators say the Pentagon broke the law when it swapped five Taliban leaders for Idaho native Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says the Defense Department's failure to notify the relevant congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of the exchange broke the law.>>
    KHQ.COM- Congressional investigators say the Pentagon broke the law when it swapped five Taliban leaders for Idaho native Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says the Defense Department's failure to notify the relevant congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of the exchange broke the law.>>
  • Doctor: No health risk from 2 US Ebola patients

    Doctor: No health risk from 2 US Ebola patients

    Thursday, August 21 2014 1:55 PM EDT2014-08-21 17:55:21 GMT
    ATLANTA - A doctor at the hospital that treated two American aid workers who were infected with the deadly Ebola virus in Africa says their discharge poses no public health risk.>>
    ATLANTA - A doctor at the hospital that treated two American aid workers who were infected with the deadly Ebola virus in Africa says their discharge poses no public health risk. Officials announced the release of Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol on Thursday. Brantly left Emory University Hospital on Thursday. Writebol left Tuesday. Family and officials say they're free of the virus. >>
  • Wife: Robin Williams had early stages of Parkinson's Disease at time of death

    Wife: Robin Williams had early stages of Parkinson's Disease at time of death

    Thursday, August 14 2014 3:26 PM EDT2014-08-14 19:26:01 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Actor and comedian Robin Williams was sober but struggling with the early stages of Parkinson's Disease at the time of his death, according to his wife. Williams' wife released the following statement Thursday:>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Actor and comedian Robin Williams was sober but struggling with the early stages of Parkinson's Disease at the time of his death, according to his wife. Williams' wife released the following statement Thursday:>>
  • Top Stories from KHQTop StoriesMore>>

  • BREAKING: Flash floods and mudslides trap people in their cars in Okanogan County

    BREAKING: Flash floods and mudslides trap people in their cars in Okanogan County

    Friday, August 22 2014 2:29 AM EDT2014-08-22 06:29:28 GMT
    Benson Creek FloodingBenson Creek Flooding
    OKANOGAN COUNTY, Wash.- A Washington state trooper says floods and mud slides triggered by heavy rain on wildfire-burned terrain in north-central Washington have blocked portions of two highways, stranding some motorists.>>
    OKANOGAN COUNTY, Wash.- A Washington state trooper says floods and mud slides triggered by heavy rain on wildfire-burned terrain in north-central Washington have blocked portions of two highways, stranding some motorists.>>
  • UPDATE: Stolen car returned to Gonzaga Prep student; thief remains at large

    UPDATE: Stolen car returned to Gonzaga Prep student; thief remains at large

    Friday, August 22 2014 2:22 AM EDT2014-08-22 06:22:59 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash.- Last Thursday a Gonzaga Prep had her car stolen from the East Central Community Center. Madeline Antcliff had been volunteering at the community center as part of her graduation requirements. She says that last Thursday a woman came into the center and stole her purse..>>
    SPOKANE, Wash.- Last Thursday a Gonzaga Prep had her car stolen from the East Central Community Center. Madeline Antcliff had been volunteering at the community center as part of her graduation requirements. She says that last Thursday a woman came into the center and stole her purse..>>