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Senate Tries Again on Jobless Aid

July 20, 2010

CHICAGO - Four may be the lucky number for the thousands of Illinois residents who have been looking for work for so long that their unemployment benefits have run out. The Senate has voted three times on extending the benefits and three times the vote has been "No." The fourth vote could come today, and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin predicts that this time the bill will pass.

Mary Gustafson, a 30-year-old journalist, spent the last 18 months on unemployment. She was getting about $400 a month, only enough to cover her health insurance, so when she saw opponents of the bill telling news reporters that extending unemployment would make people lazy, she says, she had to turn off the TV.

"I don't think they realize you can't live on this amount, if you have kids, if you're trying to buy food, if you have any unexpected expense that comes up. I don't know how they would do it."

Gustafson says she has been able to find a three-month contract job, but after that, if she doesn't get lucky, she'll again join the ranks of the 700,000 Illinois residents who are unemployed. 100,000 of those people ran out of benefits when the Senate failed to pass an extension earlier.

57-year old Berwyn resident Karen Halim lost her administrative assistant job about a year ago and says she too is offended by those who say extending unemployment benefits will make people lazy.

"You know you can't go anywhere, you can't do anything, you're limited to groceries. Living on unemployment is not a way of life."

Halim says she realizes that it's harder for older people to find work but she's not yet ready to give up.

"I mean, I want to work; I don't want to be home. I just hope I find a job."

Illinois Department of Employment officials say that if the extension passes, benefits will be retroactive to June 2, and anyone who finds part-time work can earn up to 50 percent of the weekly benefit without having the payment reduced.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL