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Thousands Lose Long-Term Jobless Benefits

Making house payments and putting food on the table could get much more difficult for some 200,000 chronically unemployed workers around the United States.

On Friday, federal long-term jobless benefits are set to expire in eight states–Texas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, according to the National Employment Law Project.

This comes one month after extended unemployment benefits expired in 15 other states, cutting off hundreds of thousands of long-term unemployed workers.

“This is pretty devastating to people,” says Mitchell Hirsch, an advocate at NELP. “There’s no other adequate safety program to tide them over until they can find new work.”

Hirsch says the average unemployment benefit is just under $300 a week nationwide, “barely enough to keep people afloat in their homes and engaged in a job search.”

Congress granted up to 99 weeks of benefits, the longest on record, to help laid-off workers during the recession. But as the federal program winds down, advocates worry that many won’t be able to find work in a weak jobs market and may slide into poverty.

Some economists say the loss of extended jobless benefits could hurt the recovery, which has already slowed in recent months, because those many thousands of people will have less money to spend. If demand for goods and services is weak, businesses will be reluctant to hire workers.

There are 3.7 job seekers for every job opening. Of the estimated 8.8 million jobs that were lost during and just after the recession, the economy has regained about 4 million.