WASHINGTON -- More than two months after Congress dropped long-term unemployment insurance, some of the people who lost benefits say they're now facing eviction.
Craig Bruce, 45, told The Huffington Post that he and his wife were evicted Tuesday from their apartment in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. He said they're fighting the eviction in court, but they spent Tuesday night in a motel room and bunked with family Wednesday.
"I can't get a job. Either I'm over-qualified or somebody else is closer and they don't have to pay them any moving fees to take the job," he told HuffPost.
Bruce, a Gulf War veteran, lost his quality assurance analyst job at an engineering company in the fall of 2012. He said his unemployment's been hard on him and his wife, who is still working in quality assurance.
"There's been a lot of depression on my end," he said. "She's scared. She's terrified right now."
Long-term unemployment insurance ended Dec. 28 for 1.3 million Americans. Since then, another 70,000 workers would have been eligible for the federal benefits after reaching the end of their state-funded compensation, but have been left hanging instead. Congressional Democrats have demanded that Congress reauthorize the benefits, but they've been unable to win enough Republican support. A bipartisan Senate compromise unveiled on Thursday, however, is a promising sign the upper chamber might approve the benefits, though it's not clear how the GOP-led House would react. A reauthorization would deliver lump-sum checks to everyone who's missed benefits.
The National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, solicits worker emails through its UnemployedWorkers.org website. Mitchell Hirsch, a Web and campaign associate for NELP, said that since late January the emails increasingly mention eviction notices along with the usual warnings about utility cutoffs.
"We're hearing from people who had been scraping by and [were] at least able to keep up with their rent payments while they were receiving unemployment, even if they were falling behind on a car payment or a utility or a phone bill," Hirsch said. "But now that unemployment insurance for long-term unemployed folks has stopped, it appears to be very difficult if not impossible for people to maintain their rent payments."
Hirsch said the site has received more than 1,500 emails since its initial request for stories in November, back when politicians first started paying attention to the imminent expiration of federal benefits. He said that the site has received roughly 500 emails since late January, and that about a third of them have mentioned eviction notices. Before then, very few did.
HuffPost has also solicited emails from unemployed people as part of its All Work, No Pay series on America's working poor. Craig Bruce contacted HuffPost in response to other workers' stories, as did Ricki Ward of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Ward, who told HuffPost Tuesday that she expects to be evicted next month, said she has worked all her life from paycheck to paycheck and raised two kids as a single mother. For the past five years, Ward worked in offices, retail stores and fast food before being laid off from a customer service job for a cable provider in March 2013.
Ward said she suspects she is having difficulty finding work because of her age.
"I took the year that I graduated from high school off of my resume, and I started getting calls," Ward said. "Yet once they saw me, I wasn't what they wanted for their front counter. I'm 59 years old, but I'm a very young 59 years old. I keep myself in good shape. I'm nowhere near ready to stop working."
She said her landlord has been fair with her, and that she has received some help from family and friends, but she keeps falling further behind.
"It's so humiliating to have to have everybody else try to take care of you," Ward said. "It's just not what I'm used to. I've worked all my life."
Donna Sprague of Grove City, Ohio, blogged for HuffPost about losing her benefits and facing eviction earlier this month. She lost her job as a nurse in August.
"We live month to month, and our landlord says if the rent is not paid by the 10th of the month, you are evicted," Sprague wrote on March 5. "We really do not want to become homeless, but if something doesn't give, that is where we will end up, without even a vehicle to sleep in. In Ohio, in winter."
She said Thursday that her husband, who is disabled, managed to scrounge up some donations from friends on Facebook, staving off eviction. But she still hasn't found a job.
Craig and Ricki's stories are part of a Huffington Post series profiling Americans who work hard and yet still struggle to make ends meet. Learn more about other individuals' experiences here.
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