Unemployment Benefits Expire Saturday as Congress Fails to Extend Aid

Expiring program could leave 1.3 million without support.

Richard Mattos, 59, looks for jobs at a state-run employment center in Salem, Ore., on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013. Mattos is one of more than 1 million Americans who will lose federal unemployment benefits at year's end.
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As some families wrap up holiday celebrations, others are dreading the uncertainty of how to pay bills when a $26 billion unemployment benefits program expires on Saturday, potentially leaving 1.3 million people without benefits, the White House says. An additional 3.6 million people who have been out of work for longer than 26 weeks would lose their benefits by the end of 2014 if the federal program expires. Those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more account for roughly 37 percent of the unemployed. The national unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 7 percent in November, however the long-term unemployed have difficulty gaining the confidence of businesses to hire them after being out of work for so long.

[READ: Amid Healing Labor Market, Long-Term Unemployment Still Dire]

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he would consider extending the unemployment benefits if there was a proposal to offset the cost.

"What our economy needs is more pro-growth solutions that get government out of the way," Boehner said in a Dec. 6 statement responding to the November unemployment report.

Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., introduced a bipartisan bill Dec. 18 to extend the program for three months while Congress negotiates a comprehensive unemployment plan. Failure to find a way to extend the program "will hurt families and set back our recovery and cost the economy 200,000 jobs in 2014," Reed said.

The average duration of unemployment benefits is 36.1 weeks. While most states only provide 26 weeks of support, according a joint statement from Reed and Heller, the current federal extension supports workers for up to 73 weeks.

[ALSO: Unemployment Rate Hits 5-Year Low]

"As Nevada's unemployment rate continues to top the charts nationwide, many families and individuals back home do not know how they are going to meet their basic needs," Heller said.

The White House supports the bill to extend unemployment benefits, citing that failure to find a solution could cause GDP to drop between .2 and .4 percent.

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