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Letters: Voices of the unemployed show need to extend benefits

Three days after Christmas this year, 1.3 million laid off American workers will see their unemployment benefits stopped.

THREE DAYS AFTER Christmas this year, 1.3 million laid-off American workers will see their unemployment benefits stopped. In Pennsylvania, the number will be 87,000 people drawing their last check on Dec. 28.

"If my wife loses her benefit before she finds a job, we lose our house."

- Philadelphia resident

These are working people caught in the worst economic crisis in more than 70 years, one that will not end. Unemployment in Pennsylvania is still 7.5 percent with 485,000 people officially unemployed.

"Today was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. [I had to] set my two kids down and tell them there might not be a Christmas this year. "

- 40-year-old unemployed father from Eubank, Ky.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is scheduled to end on Dec. 28, reducing unemployment benefits from 63 weeks to 26 weeks in Pennsylvania, meaning that 179,800 Pennsylvanians will exhaust their unemployment benefits by the end of March if this program is not continued.

"Really need the EUC extended. I already tapped into my annuity last year and need to provide for my family. I work hard and long hours most of the time. Please help!"

- Laid-off father from York, Pa.

Unless Congress acts, millions will be left with no benefits to support their families in an economy where there are still three unemployed workers for every job and the average length of unemployment is more than 37 weeks.

"I can't find work. I have been paying taxes for 35 years and demand an extension."

- Worker from Scranton, Pa.

"I am a single mother of four and was laid off almost 6 months ago. I have applied to at least 4 jobs a week every week and still haven't found a job that will support my family. I have a college degree and have always worked till I was laid off and will now have no choice but to turn to welfare if benefits are not extended. Please help!"

- Mother from Lincoln, R.I.

The Philadelphia Unemployment Project has been circulating an online petition calling on Congress to continue the EUC program. I am sharing with you some of the voices of unemployed Americans who signed the petition and who are facing the end of their only source of income during the Christmas holidays.

"I have put in over 90 applications, including McDonald's, and only been on one interview since May when I was laid off. I don't know what to do, had to move in with my mother, about to lose my car, have been depressed cause I'm looking for work - anything to help keep my child in one piece."

- Mother from Rudyard, Miss.

The pain faced by these families will be increased by the economic impact of pulling tens of billions of dollars out of our economy. These benefits are immediately circulated back into local economies and help stimulate hiring. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that ending EUC would cost 310,000 jobs at a time when there is a desperate need for more employment.

"You don't understand how many applications I've put in & no phone calls. I need the money to support myself and my two disabled children. Please help extend the benefits, we really need the help. I will lose my house, my car. I can't barely make paying my bills now. Please I'm begging you on my hands and knees for my family. Please I look for a job all day. I pray to God that I get hired so I can support my family and nothing PLEASE EXTEND OUR BENEFITS ASAP."

- Father from Philadelphia

We only hope that the sentiments expressed in these comments are being relayed to the Republican leadership in Washington and we don't devastate families and set back our economy for the false savings gained by slashing the EUC program during these hard times.

John Dodds is the director of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project.