Loss of benefits hit unemployed hard

Jessica Nguyen, Editor-in-Chief & News Editor

Sandra opens up her mail expecting to see her weekly $300 dollar check from the federal unemployment agency, but instead receives a letter saying she is being cut off from the program. Stunned by the news, Sandra contemplates how she will now be able to support her family of five without any income.

Unemployed citizens are able to apply for state and federal unemployment benefits. However, after federal unemployment benefits were extended in 2012 to provide those looking for work more time to search, Congress decided the cut the federal extension program on December 28, 2013.

This left 1.3 million unemployed citizens without pay.

“I heard about it on the news,” a sophomore who asked to remain anonymous said. “It made things harder for us than it already was.”

State and federal aid usually lasts from 63 to 73 weeks but has been reduced significantly from 37 weeks to 26 weeks or less as of December 28. Unemployed workers depend on weekly checks from the government to continue seeking jobs and to support their families while out of work.

These reduced unemployment benefits affect families who depend on these federal benefits. As of Nov. 2013, Stockton’s unemployment rate stood at 12.2 percent, one of the highest in the state.

“It makes things harder with paying bills [because] you can’t get a lot,” the anonymous sophomore said.

Without federal aid, it makes looking for a job even more difficult.

“My dad has been applying to state jobs,” the student said. “All the rejection letters…he’s getting frustrated.”

Others are also facing the same predicament.

“I worry about her,” senior Justine Do-Huynh said referring to her unemployed cousin. “I know she’s not financially stable so I’m worried about the [lack of] job opportunities in her field. It’ll put her and her family at risk if she can’t find a job in time.”

An extension for the benefits is currently being debated in Congress. The extension would provide unemployed citizens with expired benefits to continue these benefits for  two to three months.

“It would relieve more pressure off of her because she’d know that she has more time,” senior Ryan Donato said, referring to his currently unemployed mom.

According Gov. Jerry Brown, unemployment rates have risen since the last extension of federal aid for the jobless. Some believe staying on long-term unemployment aid discourages workers from finding jobs.

“I think that is a good and bad idea [to extend benefits] because some people are just taking advantage [of it] and others are working hard to find a job,” Donato said about the extension.

However, these unemployment statistics can be misleading. Those who have given up on searching for a job are not included in the unemployment statistics. A lower unemployment rate does not necessarily mean unemployment has lowered—people may have just given up on looking for work.

As a the benefits dwindle, people are less likely to find a suitable, stable job. The expired federal unemployment program left over a million people jobless and incomeless in America.