WASHINGTON, D.C. — Unemployment benefits are ending in June for tens of thousands who have been out of work long term.
Richard Diener is one of those who has been struggling with long-term unemployment and no benefits.
Diener, a 53-year-old electrical engineer used to earn around six figures. Now, he does home improvements to stay busy since he’s been unemployed for two years.
“It’s frustrating because I’ve never had a problem finding a job before. One of the jobs I saw was a teller at a credit union. It was a part-time job and $12-an-hour but still, it’s some income,” Diener said.
Diener is like five million jobless Americans who have been out of work for over six months. He was collecting unemployment benefits, but they expired in December, and he’s tapping into his savings to make ends meet.
In June, 70,000 more jobless Americans across two dozen states will share Diener’s plight when their benefits run out. All long-term unemployment insurance will eventually be phased out by the end of the year.
The new timeline was set by Congress in February, when lawmakers passed what they promise will be the last extension of long-term benefits. Congress also cut down the maximum length of time a person can collect unemployment — from 99 weeks to 73.
The political divide over another extension is deep. Republicans say it’s too costly and enables people to stay on the unemployment rolls longer. Democrats say it’s money that finds its way into the economy, and is the best way to help the unemployed.
For now, nothing is on the table to extend benefits past this year.
The presidential rivals are also duking it out over job creating plans. President Obama says Congress needs to act to help stimulate the economy.
“The private sector’s doing fine. Where we’re seeing, weaknesses in our economy, have to do with state and local government,” Obama said.
“For the President of the United States to stand up and say the private sector is doing fine is going to go down in history. It’s an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding by a president who is out of touch,” Mitt Romney said.
Obama later clarified his remarks.
“The economy is not doing fine. Let me be as clear as I can be. The economy needs to be strengthened. That’s why I had a press conference,” Obama said.
The big question is whether Congress will take up the issue before election day.