With Some Moves In Congress, Jobless Still Struggle To Get By

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On Thursday, the Senate reached a bipartisan agreement to renew jobless benefits for five months for the long-term unemployed. This comes after Congress failed to extend those benefits in December.


Back home, there has been some movement on extending the unemployment benefits that ran out for over two million Americans at the end of last year. On Thursday, the Senate finally reached a bipartisan agreement to renew those benefits. The deal would be retroactive to December 28th. That was when Congress failed to extend the emergency benefits program for Americans who have been out of work for at least six months. But yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner said he thinks the Senate deal isn't feasible.

What happens next in the Republican-run House is up in the air. Meanwhile, those who have lost their benefits are trying to find ways to get by.

AMY ROBERTS: My savings is almost gone, so anything that I had around the house that I didn't need that was valuable, I've tried to sell. And I've been pretty successful, but I don't have much left to sell. So...

RATH: That's from a phone conversation we had in January with Amy Roberts from Columbus, Ohio. She had been out of work for nine months and was walking dogs and organizing people's closets to make money.

ROBERTS: Really my full-time job was looking for a job, searching and applying and interviewing.

RATH: Then last month, she got an offer: an HR manager for a landscape design firm. Her job: hiring new employees.

ROBERTS: It's such a huge sense of relief. You know, I can't even describe that. It was - the stress was overwhelming but almost to a point where it was just kind of numbing. And I was in survival mode, you know? It was just about how am I going to get through this week or this month. And now, I don't have that stress. That's all been lifted.

RATH: Roberts is one of the lucky ones. Sixty-three-year-old Patricia James from Bremerton, Washington, was laid off over a year ago. After unemployment benefits ran dry in December, her car broke down. So she's taking the bus to get around. Getting to interviews in nearby Seattle takes hours.

PATRICIA JAMES: It makes it almost impossible for me to apply for jobs until I make sure I know that I can get there and how long it will take.

RATH: Getting unemployment benefits back would make her life easier.

JAMES: It might allow me to get my car fixed. Things would look a lot brighter. I would prefer to work. I don't like having to depend on public assistance to get by.

RATH: But for now, she says it would get her back on her feet. Patricia James isn't giving up hope.

JAMES: Let's just say I'm determined.

RATH: The Senate will revisit the agreement after a weeklong recess later this month.


RATH: This is NPR News.

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