Without extension, a million will lose unemployment benefits

By Matt Porter

December 12, 2013 Updated Dec 12, 2013 at 7:41 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Robin Valentine has worked for more than 20 years in the manufacturing industry for different companies in the Southern Tier.

But when she was laid off in March by VMR Electronics, she never expected to still be job searching in December.

"I'm far from a lazy person, I hate being stuck home," Valentine said. "Making less money than I brought home with my paycheck certainly was an adjustment to my lifestyle."

Valentine is on emergency unemployment compensation after collecting the first 26 weeks of regular benefits.

EUC benefits are 7.2 percent less than initial benefits and can be claimed for up to 53 weeks.

However, if Congress doesn't pass a bill extending EUC benefits they will end for everyone collecting on December 29.

40-year-old Valentine said she spends hours each day looking for job openings and submitting applications.

"There's at least 50 jobs as well as I've applied with temporary services," she said.

But like the 1,100 others on extended EUC benefits in Broome and Tioga counties, she can't find the next job despite having all sorts of tools on hand.

"I'm not looking out there for the job that's going to pay me $100,000 a year," Valentine said. "I'm looking at the job that's going to let me pay my bills."

Researcher Christian Harris for the New York State Department of Labor said this recovery is unusually long.

"We're usually a lot more quick to repair or recover than we have," Harris said.

Harris said although there are more jobs now than at the worst of the recession, the skills needed to fill those jobs are not held by many of those looking for work.

Director Terry Stark of the Broome-Tioga Workforce, a one-stop center for the department of labor, said the state will offer to pay for training of their applicants.

"If the company hires this person, we reimburse up to 90 percent of this person's salary why they're learning the new job," Stark said.

Valentine said she's considered going to school to compete in the market, but she can't afford to take out the loans to do it.

She collects $290 a week from her benefit, down from the original $329.

She said if she loses her benefit just after Christmas, she won't be able to afford to go to a job interview.

"You're crippling people that are already crippled emotionally and financially," Valentine said.

Congressional Action
The House agreed to a budget that did not include an unemployment benefit extension.

Democrats are for extending the benefits during the continued recovery, while it's a non-starter for many Republicans.

New York Rep. Richard Hanna (R-22) did not say exactly how he'd vote on an extension, but said it would have to be funded in some way.

"I certainly feel sorry for people who can't find a good job in this country. You'd like to believe that there is a safety net," Hanna said. "You also have to understand that it's a huge expense. And that money comes from someone who is working."

Congress has until December 28 to pass an extension before the extended benefits end.