Unemployment benefits expire for 1.3 million Americans

Unemployment benefits expire for 1.3 million Americans

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Katherine Bigger of Knoxville has been receiving unemployment benefits for nearly a year and is one of the people who will stop receiving those checks this week. Katherine Bigger of Knoxville has been receiving unemployment benefits for nearly a year and is one of the people who will stop receiving those checks this week.

By HAYLEY HARMON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Federal unemployment benefits for more than one million Americans are expiring Saturday, after Congress failed to extend the program when passing the new budget deal last week.

That means the checks will stop coming for 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans, many of whom live in East Tennessee.

The program was signed into law in 2008 during the recession and has been extended more than eleven times.

Federal benefits kick in when state funds run out and last anywhere from 14 to 47 weeks, depending on the state where a person resides.

Katherine Bigger of Knoxville has been receiving unemployment benefits for nearly a year and is one of the people who will stop receiving those checks this week.

Saturday was another typical day of job hunting for Bigger, who spent hours applying online.

"Craigslist usually first. Part time typist and paralegal. I've applied for that. Customer service, there might be something in there," said Bigger, reading over some of the advertised positions. "I applied for this one. Court clerk."

Bigger was a paralegal and receptionist for nearly 30 years, until she was laid off 11 months ago.

"Last January, I was laid off. Towards the end of January," said Bigger.

Widowed in the very same month, she searched for a new job. Unable to find one quickly, unemployment became the only option to provide for her two children.

"If it wasn't for that, I would really be homeless," said Bigger.

Now, she's losing the $235 in jobless benefits she gets every week, along with one million other Americans, as the federal long-term unemployment program expires.

Bigger says right now, that money is her lifeline.

"I haven't drawn unemployment ever in my whole life. I feel like I've worked my whole life and now when I need it, it's gone," said Bigger.

Still sending out more than a dozen resumes a day, but hearing hardly anything back, Bigger says once that last check comes, she has no idea where to turn.

The White House says lawmakers have put together bipartisan legislation to extend the benefits for three months, but that won't come to a vote for at least another month.

The Congressional Budget Office says the cost to extend the federal benefits program for another year is about $26 billion.

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