Marie Roth said she fell behind on house payments when Congress spent nearly two months dithering over a reauthorization of extended unemployment benefits last summer. Now that lawmakers are dithering again, she's worried she'll lose the house.
"I'm trying not to freak out. Just kinda praying and hoping for the best," Roth, 40, told HuffPost. "I keep looking for work and it's just not happening. There's nothing there."
Roth said she'd worked all her life when she lost her job as a property manager in June 2009, two months after the birth of her daughter, Alannah, and three months after she bought a home in Hemet, Calif.
She said she's currently receiving unemployment benefits under the fourth "tier" of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program created by Congress in 2009 to fight the worst recession since the Great Depression. She said her tier ends right before Christmas, and if Congress doesn't act, she'll be ineligible for the 20 weeks of benefits available in California under the federally-funded Extended Benefits program, which picks up where EUC leaves off. Together the programs provide up to 73 weeks of benefits on top of 26 weeks of state benefits.
Both programs lapsed on Wednesday because Congress has not reauthorized them. The Labor Department estimates that 800,000 people will be dropped from EB within a week, and another 1.2 million will be dropped from EUC by the end of the month (though people on EUC, like Roth, will get to finish benefits in their current tier).
Over the summer, Roth was one of 2.5 million people who had their benefits interrupted while the Senate wrangled over the reauthorization. One Democratic senator told HuffPost Tuesday that another lengthy lapse is entirely possible. "We're used to having a series of votes on this before we get it done," Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) said.
Roth is used to it, too. She thinks Congress is oblivious to the havoc it creates for people laid off through no fault of her own such as herself. "I think they understand but they just don't care," she said. "They care more about the issues that affect them, like the Bush tax cuts."
Indeed, the best hope for extended jobless aid now appears to be attaching a reauthorization of the aid to a reauthorization of the expiring Bush tax cuts for the rich. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Senate Republicans objected to Democratic "unanimous consent" requests to reauthorize the benefits for a full year. Democrats objected to counter-proposals to reauthorize the benefits and offset their deficit impact with spending cuts, arguing the cost of extended unemployment during recessions is traditionally not offset.
However they do it, Roth hopes it happens soon, because her job search has been awful. A reauthorization would mean several additional months of aid before she'd have to move out of her house if she doesn't find work. She said she has applied daily for administrative jobs, secretarial jobs, anything within 50 miles. "Everything I've applied for I would have been taking a $7-an-hour paycheck," she said, "and I can't even get that."