Extended unemployment benefit cuts in effect

FRESNO, California

In our six county Central California region, the state reports about 15,000 face a loss of benefits. About half of those in Fresno County, where the unemployment rate remains at nearly 13 percent and jobs are hard to find.

Diane Caldwell said, "I'm barely struggling along just to keep a roof over my head it's hard."

The cuts only affect those whose 26 weeks of state benefits ran out and were given a Federal extension.

Caldwell is not losing her unemployment benefits yet. She was laid off from her full time job with the state five years ago. Since then she's had a series of temporary and seasonal jobs and gets some unemployment benefits in between. She says life without a regular job is no way to live.

"If I could just find a job," said Caldwell, "I used to have no problem finding a job. I have a bachelor's degree in social work and I still can't find a job. And it's just very discouraging after so many years."

For those whose benefits run out this week, the hope is congress will give them a break. But Representative Jim Costa of Fresno told us by phone there are no guarantees.

"There's negotiation taking place now," said Costa. "It appears there may be an agreement on a three month extension."

The problem is Speaker of the House John Boehner wants Congress to make other cuts in the budget to pay for the extension. But every week the benefits are delayed costs the economy hundreds of millions of dollars the unemployed aren't able to spend on necessities.

"Obviously these people aren't putting it in their savings account," said Costa. "They are spending that money to help survive."

Even for those still receiving unemployment benefits, like Diane Caldwell, being out of work is no cakewalk.

Caldwell explained, "It's hard, if it wasn't for my church the most wonderful church I go to, River Park Bible Church and they have a benevolence fund, and if it wasn't for that benevolence fund I'd be homeless right now. I just wish there was work. I just wish there was work."

Congress is expected to take up the benefit extension when they return to their jobs on January 7th.

Costa says it would be the middle of the month, at the earliest, that benefits could be restored.

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