But, Wednesday, lawmakers failed to extend expired provisions allowing people to do that. Which means, many will not only be without a job, but without that government issued check every two weeks.
Lisa Bates is a regular at Workforce Connection, an employment resource center in Central Fresno. The former Fresno County employee has been unemployed for nearly two years ... and every day, she spends hours looking for a new job. "I'm looking as hard as I can, doing what I can. I mean, I've exhausted everything," said Bates.
Bates is one of an estimated 1.5 million Californians who collect unemployment insurance. She's filed for an extension four times. But, those benefits may soon run out.
This week, the Employment Development Department started sending out notices to people like Bates ... alerting them they can no longer file any more extension claims. That's because Congress has yet to approve a bill that would give unemployed people that option.
Steven Gutierrez of the EDD says unless the government takes action ... people will be forced to utilize alternative programs. "Once you have your benefits cut off, you're going to have more people go through the department of social services to use whatever means or resources they can through that particular department."
Arthur Moss of workforce connection, says he too fears more people will need additional help. "We do our best here at Workforce Connection to try and reconnect them with unemployment opportunities, but obviously jobs need to be here. There are jobs, but not as many as there were 2 or 3 years ago," said Moss.
And for Lisa Bates ... the clock is ticking. Her benefits run out in two months. "Absolutely, I'm worried. I'm rushing. I hope I can get a job before my unemployment benefits run out. It's very crucial. It pays my bills. If I don't pay my rent, I don't have a place to live," said Bates.
At this point, 100,000 people here in California have received their last unemployment check. Congress is still discussing the issue and democrats hope to pass something by the end of this week. Economists say there's a hold-up because lawmakers are being frugal.