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Unemployed, Out Of Benefits: 'If Anything Happens, I'm Really Screwed'

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WASHINGTON -- Karen Good said she lost her job at a nonprofit in Florida almost exactly two years ago and just last month finished her 99th week of unemployment benefits.

Job search: hopeless.

"I'm strong and healthy but nobody wants to hire somebody my age," said Good, who will be 62 in two weeks. She said she's applied for plenty of low-paying jobs without any luck. "I applied to demonstrate products at Costco -- $8.50 an hour. I was in there four hours, had to take all these tests, I never heard back from them."

In August about 6,500 people showed up at a job fair for 300 openings at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando, Fla., according to the Orlando Sentinel. Good lives in nearby Altamonte Springs.

Good said she's at the beginning of a three-month gap with no income before she can start receiving early Social Security payments worth $1,113 a month in February. (The jobs crisis has pushed many unemployed into early retirement.)

"If anything happens I'm really screwed," she said. "Thank God my car is running. Thank God I'm healthy. I have no medical insurance. I live on what I have. I don't buy clothes. I shop at thrift stores all the time."

She said she keeps herself sane by volunteering at a pet pantry. Food stamps, after all, don't cover food for dogs and cats. Helping other people, she said, reminds her that "we're all in this together."

Good is grateful that she received 99 weeks of unemployment. Congress has struggled several times this year to reauthorize the federally-funded programs that helped Good with $300 a week for 73 weeks after she finished 26 weeks of state-funded benefits. During the summer, Good was one of 2.5 million people to have her benefits interrupted as Congress debated a renewal of the benefits for nearly two months. Unemployment has caused her to pay more attention to politics.

"I'm not a super political person but I've sort of become one because I need the government now more than I ever have in my life," she said.

She doesn't think lawmakers should bother creating additional weeks of benefits for "99ers" such as herself. Another 20 weeks of benefits, she figures, isn't going to make for a better scene at the Peabody Hotel's next job fair. (Nobody knows how many 99ers there are.)

She does think Congress should quit dithering and reauthorize extended unemployment benefits so other laid-off people can have as much help as she had. She's disgusted that Congress is struggling once again to renew the jobless aid. This week Democrats are angry at President Obama for cutting a deal with Republicans to attach the benefits to a renewal of Bush-era tax cuts for the rich.

"I'm like angry with the whole of government," Good said. "It's become such a little pissing match."

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