Congress fails to extend jobless benefits, hitting 21,000 Kentuckians

The Lexington Herald-LeaderDecember 1, 2010 

With Christmas less than a month away, more than 21,000 Kentuckians are expected to lose their unemployment benefits this week after Congress did not act Tuesday to extend emergency benefits, according to state officials.

And the number of affected Kentuckians will surpass 75,000 within the next eight weeks if Congress keeps the benefits extension cut, said Lanny Brannock, spokesman for the state Office of Employment and Training.

Frustration and some despair Tuesday flooded the Jobs Center, where Lexington's unemployed go to register for benefits and look for work. Quietly waiting among the many there, Latoya Collins, 27, said maybe Congress doesn't notice the working man.

"Look, they got jobs," Collins said.

She'll be talking to her family about moving in with them and looking for a job without money, which is harder than it sounds, she said. She hasn't been without a job since she was 15, she said.

It is the third time this year the nation's lawmakers let the emergency benefits expire, even though the nation's unemployment rate remains steady at 9.6 percent. In those cases, jobless workers got retroactive benefits once legislation was passed.

The benefit extensions granted over the past two years have given the nation's long-term jobless up to 73 weeks of financial help, depending on the state's jobless rate, beyond the usual 26-week benefit.

Nationwide, the number of people slated to lose benefits is estimated at 2 million.

Both U.S. senators from Kentucky, Republicans Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, oppose the benefit extension, noting the extra spending would increase the national deficit. Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Versailles has supported the extension in the past but could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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