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Unemployment benefits expire Saturday for over 1 million Americans

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Unemployment benefits will expire Dec. 28 for approximately 1.3 million Americans, according to a Dec. 27 Associated Press report. The loss of the extended federal benefits is a huge blow to the U.S. economy, and Congress is gearing up for an ugly battle when it reconvenes in 2014.

President Barack Obama is urging Congress to take steps to address the “urgent economic priority,” the White House said. The expiration of the unemployment benefits will have severe implications for families dependent on the cash assistance.

An estimated 214,000 people in California will be affected, and over 127,00 New Yorkers will lose the federal emergency funds. New Jersey will find 90,000 residents tightening their cash flow belts.

CNN reports that the program was first signed into law in 2008 by President George W. Bush, and has been extended or expanded several times since then, thanks to the rising unemployment rates. The most recent extension was Jan. 2.

Extending the benefits has been a sore spot for both parties. During budget deal negotiations earlier this month, House Speaker John Boehner noted he was open to an extension if the White House came up with a plan. The White House for its part, has issued a statement that senators are pushing bipartisan legislation to extend emergency unemployment insurance for three months. The matter goes to vote when they return to Washington next week.

Just as the expiration of benefits has severe implications on the economy, so does the cost of extending the program, which the Congressional Budget Office tagged at about $26 billion for another year. According to Republicans, the program has already cost $252 billion in five years.

For those Americans affected by the expiration of unemployment benefits, a little more time will go a long way. “Give us a little more time to try and make some plans,” 56-year-old Michelle Marshall said. “I can't give up. I have no one to take care of me.”

Marshall is one of many Americans who have been unemployed for a year after losing a job, where she earned an annual salary of $44,000, CNN reports. She collected New Jersey unemployment benefits of $624 each week until state benefits ran out after 26 weeks. She then moved on to federal benefits of $521. Saturday marks the expiration of this limited cash assistance for Marshall.

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