EUGENE, Ore. — More than a million Americans are preparing for a financial hit this weekend. Starting Saturday, extended unemployment benefits will come to an end.
The Oregon Employment Department says thousands of Oregonians will be out of benefits and out of luck as lawmakers left Washington this year without voting on an extension.
Though Congress can still pass an extension, it won’t happen until the new year. So, staff and those getting benefits say it’s going to be a difficult waiting game.
For many at the Eugene WorkSource Lane Office, they’ve seen and heard the reminders, but they don’t make it any easier.
“It’d be devastating,” said benefit recipient Debbie Hartwig.
Hartwig has been getting the notices for quite some time, but she’s one of the few with a job lined up just in time.
“You run out of money and you probably don’t have any money anyway, because (laughs) you don’t work. I don’t know how people deal with it. I’m just lucky enough to get to go back to work after the first of the year. I just don’t know how people will deal with it. I feel bad for them,” Hartwig said.
“When you’re unemployed. You get 26 weeks of what we call regular benefits paid by the state. After that Congress passed a program called EUC that provides additional benefits for those that have exhausted their state benefits,” said Tom Fuller, OEO Communications Manager.
Starting Saturday, the state will only have enough money to cover about 2,200 people, which means 17,800 people will get nothing. But staff with the Oregon Employment Office say they’re not alone and not entirely without resources.
“Although it is not a good situation for someone to be out of their benefits. It’s also not the worst time either…So we’re hoping that through all the resources we have that have through WorkSource Oregon that we can help get these people back to work because that will really make the difference in their lives,” Fuller said.
That’s something many agreed on and said, though it’s not ideal, there aren’t many options other than to continue the hunt.
“The good news is that the unemployment rate has been dropping in the area. So hopefully, people will be able to find jobs more easily than,” said Eugene resident Dan Watrude.
“I just need to look harder for a job, and that’s about all I can do,” said benefit recipient Jesse Stange.
Relief may be on the horizon though. In the past, such benefits have been extended or even expanded. The Oregon Employment Office says it’s possible this could happen again when Congress returns from the holiday break. In fact, right now, President Obama has discussed finding a way to pressure Congress to do just that.