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Bootheel residents confused and stressed over unemployment issues

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After President Obama's State of the Union address on Jan. 28, many unemployed in the Bootheel of Missouri are hoping that congress will act on the unemployment federal extensions. Two of the largest employers in Pemiscot County, PMHS and Trinity Marine, laid off employees during the last year and many lost their federal extensions on Dec. 28.

Adding insult to injury, one Bootheel woman, who prefers not to use her real name, was still in her state tier that she expected to be 26 weeks. "I suddenly got a letter right after Christmas stating that my state benefits would stop after only 20 weeks, even though I had not exhausted the funds," she said, "I could not get into the extension because they were already cut off."

To add to her confusion she received an email from the Division of Workforce Development two days ago that was dated Dec. 31, 1969. It instructed her that she should have received a letter from unemployment and she needed to schedule a "remployment (sic) appointment." She called the local office in Kennet, MO, who told her that she was all up to date and to keep filing in case the extension came through. When she tried the 888 number on the letter, it was disconnected. The local office then told her she would be contacted by Jefferson City.

Yesterday, she received a call from Jefferson City, who informed her that there was a "computer glitch" on the email she received "I wasn't even born in 1969 and my mother was only ten years old," she said, "When I talked to the state office, they told me we didn't have an "unemployment office" in our area, it was a "career center" and I should be dealing with them (Jefferson City). They confirmed the number on the letter was disconnected.

To add to her confusion, the office in Jefferson City asked her if she was receiving benefits. She told them that she had been cut off from the state, but was still filing as instructed, should the federal benefits be reinstated. She was then told that the Jefferson City office was telling people they did not have to file.

Instructions that several people on the extension have received state that if they miss weeks of filing, then they could lose their federal extension if Congress approves it. "I have had two job interviews that are hopeful," she said, "But until I hear I am still filing to stay in the system." She says she is confused and dismayed, and that she does not understand the state benefits cut, and then the continued reluctance of Congress to pass the extension.

"I worked 17 years and got only 20 weeks, I am out looking for work every day to pay my bills," she said, "Then we get confusing instructions and don't know how to protect ourselves to stay in the system. She indicates that she is still filing weekly and meeting all of the requirements in case benefits are re-instated.

Another young family in the Bootheel have two small children under the age of two. Dylan says when his federal extension was cut on Dec. 28, it left them no option but to seek state food stamp and assistance. "I have been looking for work and trying to take care of my family," he said, "But without a vehicle, and limited funds, I can't just up and relocate the two children."

Area small businesses are also feeling the lack of funds as the unemployed in the impoverished county do not have the funds to spend. Most are like Dylan and the woman quoted above, just waiting to hear if Congress or anyone will step up to help.

A call to the Missouri Department of Employment Security went unanswered as of story time.

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