Unemployed Californians prepare for consequences

An unemployment man poses with unemployment forms from the state of California at his home in Palo Alto, Calif., Monday, Sept. 21, 2009. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

November 30, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The last check could already be in the mail for thousands of unemployed Californians. After federal extensions on unemployment benefits expire today.

About 150,000 Californians are getting notices this week, and unless Congress OKs another extension, that number will grow to more than 450,000 by the end of the year.

Mark lost his job as a UC Berkeley custodian more than a year ago. he's been relying on unemployment benefits ever since and today it was an unnerving waiting game for him and many others, as they sat on hold with the federal unemployment office, hoping to ask one simple question.

"Should I expect the check or should I expect no income at all?" he said.

He never found out whether he will be among the nearly half a million jobless Californians whose unemployment checks will soon be slashed if congress does not approve an extension to keep the money flowing.

"That would be just kind of more devastating than my life already is," Mark said.

Devastating is a word used a lot at the Oakland Employment Assistance Center. If there are no more extensions granted, the unemployed will max out on their federal benefits after 26 weeks, or six and a half months. During the recession, the checks were mailed until 99 weeks and those who have been out of work the longest will see their benefits cut first.

"If they were otherwise eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits they would receive what was left on that but it wouldn't go beyond that," Allen Jackson from the Employment Development Department said.

Oakland already has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state at about 17 percent.

"It will be a devastating impact. Many people in our Oakland community are reliant on their unemployment insurance," Gay Plair Cobb from the Oakland Private Industry Council said.

"It' makes a difference between whether or not you can pay the rent or not," Judith Johnson from Alameda said.

Judith Johnson is at the beginning of the line, since she just started collecting unemployment a few months, while Gregory branch is at the end and can't collect anymore.

"It was a devastating blow I had to move out of the place I was in. I am homeless right now," he said.

At this point it's the price tag that has Democrats and Republicans at a standstill. Another extension would cost more than $12 billion, but if Congress lets the aid run out, the Labor Department says nearly 2 million people around the country will lose their benefits by Christmas.


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