Jobless workers enter free fall

Monday, January 6, 2014
By Paul Martin

By Suzy Khimm

The pickup truck will probably be the first thing to go.

It’s the first new car that Jeremy Botta has ever bought, using his savings from working for more than 14 years at the same auto repair shop. “I bent over backwards—I worked almost a 100 hours a week on my salary to turn that store around,” said Botta, 37, who was laid off in April after the shop changed owners.

Unemployment insurance has allowed Botta to keep up with his car and mortgage payments. But on Dec. 28, he became one of the 1.3 million unemployed Americans to lose their emergency federal benefits when Congress declined to extend the program.

Democrats and a few Republicans have vowed to revisit the issue when the Senate returns on Monday with a vote scheduled for a three-month extension. President Obama will also urge a benefit extension last week.

In the meantime, unemployed workers like Botta are already making contingency plans to get by without the jobless aid. And economists warn that the loss of aid will discourage some to stop looking for work altogether.

“If it comes down to it, I’ll have to sell the house,” says Botta, who bought the place in Bend, Ore., just months before he suddenly lost his job, which netted him as much as $60,000 in a good year. Having already raided his retirement savings, Botta thinks he’ll need to take three or four part-time jobs, working 60 to 70 hours a week just to get by without the unemployment checks.

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