The continued inability of Congress to balance the budget is really hitting some people hard. Today, a small group of concerned citizens gathered to discuss how that's affecting people in our area. A vigil to convince congress to extend long-term unemployment benefits was the goal behind this meeting sponsored by a sub-group of the AFL-CIO.
"There's a lot of people out of work. Over 14 million nationwide," said AFL-CIO member Jay Hagenbuch, "There are 260,000 in New York State."
Currently, according to Hagenbuch of the AFL-CIO, New York grants people 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. Congress had made it so there were certain extensions available, but with the budget crisis going on in Washington, the possibility of the extension will end December 31st. "We have 49 million people that are living at poverty level or below and taking unemployment insurance away from those people is simply going to add to that figure," he says.
"I really feel that for most people they're really trying to find a job but the jobs are just not there." Nedra Weiler and her husband attended the vigil today. James Weiler held a steady job until 2003. Since then, he has had work here and there, and has been on and off of unemployment insurance. As of December 31st, he'll be cut off for good. Mrs. Weiler says not only are jobs limited, but she feels that her husband faces age discrimination at times. They're both hoping that congress can reach an agreement soon, one that includes an extension of those benefits. "You know we fight the fight every day, we have to do a lot of budgeting and stretching the dollar to stay afloat," she says.
The AFL-CIO is trying to get people to sign a petition to give to Congressman Richard Hanna, urging him to work on this issue.