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Expired Unemployment Benefits Causing Panic, Desperation: 'I'm Drowning Fast'

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Debra Rousey of Gainesville, Georgia, says that she received an unemployment check of $194 last week, half the usual amount she receives, along with a letter announcing that this check would be her last. She is now in a complete panic over what to do next.

"I'm desperate and devastated," she told HuffPost. "I didn't get any warning. I was barely making ends meet on $330 a week, trying to diaper my grandchild and put food on the table for the four people I support. What do I do now? How am I going to make rent next month? I keep thinking, 'If I end up in a cardboard box, can I find one big enough for everybody, or do I have to send my son to live with someone else?'"

Since Rousey, 45, was laid off from her job as a branch manager for Suntrust bank in November, she says she has been "frantically looking" for a job -- everything from entry-level marketing positions to a fry cook job at McDonalds -- but hasn't had an interview in months. As of tomorrow, she will be one of nearly 1.7 million people whose unemployment benefits have prematurely expired while Congress sits on legislation that would renew those benefits.

"I hate being on unemployment," Rousey said. "I haven't applied for food stamps or Medicaid for myself because I have a work ethic that says if I want to eat, I want to work to eat. I don't want a handout. But right now I'm at the breaking point. If I don't come up with cash quick, everything will be cut off within two weeks -- gas, electric, water. Five people will be displaced. How am I supposed to come up with the money?"

Rousey is currently pursuing a master's degree in adult education through an online program, and her son, 17, and her 25-year-old daughter are also full-time students. She said all three of them are desperate for work.

"I have put in at least 5 resumés a day since November," she said. "It's not like I'm not employable. I have a bachelor's degrees in business, an associate's degree in marketing, and 25 years of office management experience. But I can't even get McDonald's to call me back for an interview."

If her unemployment benefits are not renewed soon, Rousey says she will have no way to pay rent or put food on the table. The House passed a bill on Thursday that would extend unemployment benefits for those who have been unemployed longer than six months, but the bill is moving slowly in the Senate. Rousey said she she's not holding her breath for help from the government.

"They cut off my Internet and cable about five minutes ago, and my landlord is already calling," she said. "I don't have time to wait for Congress to extend these benefits. I'm drowning fast."

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