Extension of Unemployment Benefits in Jeopardy?

By: Demetria McClenton Email
By: Demetria McClenton Email

Nearly 56,000 Alabamians may stop receiving an extension on unemployment benefits.

In this tight economy, that could be the difference between paying bills or putting food on the table.

Congress has until midnight tonight to step in and make a decision.

But for those unemployed, time is ticking.

"Just pray I can hurry up and get a job. It doesn't matter what I'm doing just as long as I can get a job," said Erica Pearson, whose been searching for a job for 5 months.

Millions across the nation can empathize with Pearson.

"It's a struggle everyday because you have bills. You know your bills aren't going to stop you have to constantly keep pressing yourself to go out there and get a job every day," said Pearson.

"Federal programs that have extended unemployment benefits in Alabama beyond the normal 26 weeks will expire this week," said Tom Surtees, Director of Alabama Department of Industrial Labor.

"There are people who will come in and say are you hiring? We will always take their application because we don't want to pass up a superstar," said Matt Howell, Owner of Atlanta Bread Company.

Unfortunately, super stars are far and between.

Howell has seen many applicants apply at his store and some are just meeting unemployment requirements.

"You pretty much know when they're looking at you waiting for you to say no we're not hiring. They're almost relieved when you just take the application," said Howell.

Surtees says since 2008, unemployment benefits have been extended an additional 73 weeks costing tax payers more than $1 Billion.

"Between now and April 30th, individuals that are currently receiving these extended benefits will lose those benefits as they exhaust," said Surtees.

State Officials don't want you to panic, extensions will not end abruptly.

"Part of the 50,000 may cease getting their benefits within the next week or so while others it will be towards the end of April," said Surtees.

He says it's important for people to keep certifying each week with the department.

If Congress approves the extension, benefits will be retroactive making the transition much smoother.

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