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Unemployment Extension Standoff 'A Crummy Deal For The American Public'

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Paul Gilbert lost his job managing a restaurant in Phoenix in May and said he's had a terrible time finding a new one.

"I have put out at least 25 resumes a week and have only had two interviews," Gilbert told HuffPost. "I want to work. I love to work. I'll do anything, someone please give me a job."

Now he's worried he'll lose the $240 a week he's been receiving in unemployment insurance. Despite a historically bad job market, two million people could be cut off from their unemployment benefits during the holidays if Congress fails to reauthorize federally-funded jobless aid that expires at the end of the month. Gilbert said the Arizona Department of Economic Security told him he's in the cutoff boat.

"It's going to be a long December for a lot of people," Gilbert said.

Over the summer, Congress dithered for nearly two months over a reauthorization of Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits programs that together provide up to 53 weeks of jobless aid on top of the 26 weeks provided by states. Nearly 2.5 million had their federal benefits interrupted, a debacle set to happen again this December.

Before Congress adjourned for its Thanksgiving break, House Republicans blocked a bill that would have reauthorized the programs for three months, insisting that its $12 billion cost be offset with spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. Many expect Democrats to cut a deal by Christmas, preserving the benefits perhaps by attaching them to a reauthorization of expiring tax cuts for the rich.

Even if that happens -- and the extended benefits lapse only briefly -- Gilbert said he doesn't appreciate the uncertainty: "I think it's a crummy deal for the American public."

Gilbert said he and his wife moved from Arizona to his hometown near Detroit, Mich. in September to stay with his brother. He said that at 58, he suspects his age is a major factor in potential employers' decisions to pass him over.

"The kids interviewing me, they're 28, 32, looking at you going, 'No way, buddy,'" he said. "I tried at Walmart, I tried the retail stores, I've tried everywhere."

As for Congress, he said, "I hope they enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner."

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