Congress did not extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed in the budget it passed before the Christmas break.
That means nearly 40,000 Georgians will lose extended federal jobless benefits on Dec. 28.
Among those losing their weekly payments is Curtis Simmons of Atlanta. He is a carpenter, and has been out of work almost a year.
“I’m over the age of 50, I’m Afro-American and it just seems to be difficult. There’s an influx of illegal Mexican workers here that will work a lot cheaper than myself,” said Simmons.
Simmons is currently living in his van, and he says he has nowhere else to turn.
“I’m homeless at the time. And I have a van that’s big enough I can curl up in a sleeping bag and sleep. It’s been difficult, especially with the holidays. But you can’t stop, you live to fight another day.”
Viki Staley of Kennesaw lost her job as executive director of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust in June. She says without unemployment benefits, she’ll be struggling to get by.
“It puts me in a position of having absolutely no income, none. My 83-year-old mother lives with me. She does get Social Security. She will be able to help out a little bit. But otherwise, mortgage, utilities, all of that- I’m looking at a situation that’s quite bleak,” said Staley.
People qualify for the federal benefits after they exhaust their 18 weeks of state unemployment.
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. announced on Dec. 26 that he would introduce a bill to extend long-term unemployment benefit for three months. He plans to introduce the extension with Nevada Republican, Sen. Dean Heller. Congress will vote on whether to extend the benefits when it reconvenes Jan. 6.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate has dropped to seven percent. But some experts say the reason for the decrease is because many people have given up trying to find a job and have dropped out of the workforce.