Sunday, Mar 9, 2014
Families Brace to Lose Unemployment Benefits
FRANKLIN COUNTY-- Saturday has been the day that more than a million Americans have dreaded. Long-term unemployment benefits run out for 1.3 million people across the country.
Congress decided to not renew the jobless benefits as it put together its recent budget deal. Now, after most people reach 26 weeks of unemployment, their benefits will end, adding another stress factor.
Officials estimate 82,000 people in Illinois will lose those jobless benefits. Many of them live in our area. In our fragile economy, they say jobs are hard to come by.
"I feel like the government's let everybody down," explains Joe Dickerson.
His Benton family of 10 has relied on unemployment benefits since May.
"How are we gonna make it? We've been struggling for almost the last year and a half to make everyday bills," wonders wife Dani Dickerson
They've felt a financial crunch for a while now, but since Joe was laid off from the coal mines it's been harder.
"We budget and budget and budget, and then then we still have those loose ends at the end of the month," Dani explains.
Joe says he's easily applied for more than 100 jobs. His wife Dani works part-time; she can't find full-time employment or enough hours as a waitress to support them all.
"77 interviews and in that time I'd heard that you're over-trained, over-qualified. We can't pay you what you're worth," she says.
They live with the essentials: electricity and water, no extras like cable or internet. Long-term unemployment benefits kept them afloat.
"There was a leap there, really hoping and praying the economy would get better," adds Dani.
John Jackson with the Paul Simon Institute says more job cuts are expected to come in 2014,
in addition to SNAP benefits already reduced at the beginning of November.
"A Number of these people were also getting food stamps, so they've been given a double whammy," Jackson explains
It will send many more looking to unemployment for support, and there's no guarantee Congress will come to the rescue.
"Deeply divisive issues like this are now finding conservatives and republicans on one side and liberal democrats on the other," says Jackson.
For Joe's family, though, all is not lost..
"I turn around and see the smiling faces and know that everything's gonna be ok," says Dani.
Joe is now planning to enroll in truck driving school. It's expensive, though, and won't guarantee he'll be hired anywhere. It would also mean lots of time away from the family.
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