As the deadline to avoid the "fiscal cliff" looms, Virginia's unemployed could be among the hardest hit if Congress fails to compromise.
Unemployment benefits from the federal government expire Dec. 29, a result of stalled negotiations that could impact thousands of job-seekers across Virginia.
People without jobs often first apply for financial compensation through the Virginia Employment Commission. When benefits from Virginia expire, out-of-work applicants may then seek money from the federal government.
But with no plan to revive federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Virginians reaching the end of their state benefits may run out of financial options – while bills mount, and job searches continue.
"My benefits from Virginia expire December the 29th, 2012," said Petersburg resident Catherine Hasnaoui. "It's right around the corner. And it is scary, thinking about where to go."
Hasnaoui was unaware her state benefits will expire the day federal unemployment money could disappear. While working on her resume at a VEC local office in Hopewell, she said in an interview Friday her optimism on finding a job before then is fading.
"I've been looking for so long, and I don't have anyone I could reach out to who would support me," Hasnaoui said. "It's awful."
Virginians receive state benefits between 12 to 26 weeks. If they seek federal aid afterwards, benefits can come for another 14 weeks. Without legislation from Congress restoring unemployment funds, the National Employment Law Project estimates 15,800 individuals in Virginia will lose their federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
"If I can't find a job by the time my benefits from Virginia end, I know I'll have my family to help" said Denise Wooden-Jackson of Spring Grove. "But I feel sorry for the people who do not have people to back them up."
Virginia's unemployment rate currently stands at 5.8 percent. Friday, the national unemployment rate fell to a near four-year low of 7.7 percent.
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