Many Could Lose Unemployment Benefits

Joe Thurman
Joe Thurman, who lost his job in January. His benefits run out in October, and he's afraid his family will lose their house.
CBS

It's becoming a painful routine for the millions of Americans out of work - lining up first outside job fairs, then asking for help at unemployment offices.

"It's very humbling," said Donald Mayes, now unemployed after a 19-year job. "I've never had to do this."

What's more, unless Congress acts to extend unemployment benefits, an estimated half million people will see their unemployment checks run out by the end of next month - almost a million and a half by the end of the year, reports CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

More than half a million more workers joined the line for unemployment benefits last week, falling in behind more than 6 million already collecting.

Joe Thurman of Chicago, a married father of two, lost his job in January and is one of 9.3 million Americans getting a check. But his benefits run out in October.

"To me it is doomsday, it really is," Thurman said. "I don't know where we're going to come up with the money to make our bills."

Let alone tuition for daughter Melanie and son Matthew.

A new study finds Illinois is one of 17 states borrowing federal dollars to keep its unemployment checks from bouncing. As the demand for benefits continues, it's estimated another 14 states could need a bailout by next year.

Typically the unemployed could count on just 26 weeks of benefits. Congress approved money for an additional 53 weeks, which now extends benefits to a year and a half - the longest stretch in the program's history.

"This is the biggest test of the unemployment system since it was started 75 years ago," said Andrew Stettner with the National Employment Law Project.

But even extended benefits, which only amount to half his pay, Joe Thurman worries he will not be able to keep his family afloat much longer.

"We'll probably lose the house," Thurman said. "The American dream is dead. It's over."

Now at age 51 he tries to start over, competing with more people for fewer jobs. July's unemployment figures are out Friday, are expected to hit 9.6 percent - a 26 year high.