In Your Corner: The Battle Over Unemployment Benefits

By Ryan Elijah

June 25, 2010 Updated Jul 8, 2010 at 4:49 PM EDT

Christopher Wilson's job in Whitley County was eliminated nearly ten months ago, since then he has applied for between five and ten jobs per day with no success.

He and his wife, Rachael have been raising 3 kids, mainly on their $266 dollar a week unemployment check. Like thousands in this region, that check and their lifeline ran out at the end of May when a new extension wasn't passed by Congress.

"if we don't get it, we lose everything, probably lose our house and then the bills", said Rachael Wilson.

Shortly after our interview Christopher did find temporary work and is expected to start soon. While he's been looking for jobs, so have many others, he said every open job has had countless applications turned in.

Across town, Tracy Rau faces another challenge, her job was downsized after 9 years at the same company. Tracy has been blind since the age of two, but has never used that as an excuse not to work. She's been out of work for nearly 2 years, sending out nearly 5-7 applications per week, only to companies that are hiring. Like the Wilson's she wants to get off unemployment, but desperately needs the benefits until that day.

"it's very important, we don't want to lose our home. My husband and I just bought the home before I was laid off. It's very important to me to be employed so I can feel that I'm contributing to the household." Tracy Rau said.

The jobs bill, has become a battleground of sorts over spending, extending the benefits through November would cost nearly $34 Billion. Only three Republicans voted for the last extension in April and not one supported the latest bill.

The bill was defeated Thursday night with Senator Evan Bayh (D) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D) supporting it and Senator Dick Lugar (R) and Senator George Voinovich (R) voting against it.

Senator Lugar's office told us before the vote that he fully supports extending the benefits, if it's done in a financially responsible manner. He did vote for an amendment last week that his office says would have extended benefits and been paid for, that amendment was defeated.

Senator Bayh has similar concerns over the impact of the bill on the deficit, but said he has consistently supported efforts to help struggling families. He decided to support the bill after the impact on the deficit was lowered.

"The economy is not as strong as it should be and unemployment, particularly in Northeast Indiana, remains unacceptably high. We shouldn't let partisan gamesmanship prevent the extension of these benefits, and I hope Washington will act swiftly", said Senator Bayh.

The bottom line, over a million unemployed Americans like the Rau's and Wilsons find themselves in the middle of a growing fiscal debate in Washington. The Wilson's benefits ran out last week, while Tracy Rau will see her benefits expire next week. Over 1.4 million Americans will see their benefits expire if an extension is not passed before Congress goes on recess July 2nd.

It's clear the divide between the parties over how to handle the impact of unemployment is getting wider.

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