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Long-Term Unemployment Means 'There Are No Weekends Anymore'

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William Rugg said he lost his job as a senior-level paralegal back in May 2009.

"At first, I didn't sweat it," he told HuffPost. "I thought with my experience, 20-plus years in the legal profession, I thought that would take me a long way."

It didn't. Rugg said it seems his applications go into a "black hole" when he responds to job ads online. The forced time off hasn't been much of a vacation.

"When you're out of work this long, there are no weekends anymore," said Rugg, 53, who lives in Westfield, N.J. "It's like Groundhog Day."

There are ways to counter the surreality. Rugg said he's been volunteering as a "Y's Man" helping to sell Christmas trees at the local YMCA.

Rugg said he "zeroed out" his unemployment benefits last week, when he received the final check under the third tier of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. Because Congress has not reauthorized long-term jobless aid, Rugg is ineligible for the fourth and final tier of EUC or for 20 weeks of extended benefits.

That makes him one of more than a million people denied Tier 4 unemployment, according to the National Employment Law Project. If Congress doesn't restore the benefits, another million will be prematurely cut off before the end of the month.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Monday on legislation to reauthorize the lapsed benefits along with expiring tax cuts for the rich. Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives expect it to pass in their chamber as well.

Rugg doesn't love that long-term unemployed people such as himself have become a bargaining chip in congressional negotiations over tax cuts for the rich. "I hate to be one of the people that's slowing down real progress in getting rid of the deficit or having a more fair tax structure as far as the top 2 percent," he said.

He said seeing the benefits reauthorized, however, is his main concern. "I'm a calm individual and I tend to see the glass half full," he said, "but if this doesn't go through I'll be in the shitter like a lot of people."

HuffPost readers: Holidays affected by unemployment? Tell us about it -- email arthur@huffingtonpost.com. Please include your phone number if you're willing to do an interview.

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