Fear And Hopelessness As Five Families Prepare To Lose Unemployment Benefits

On Saturday, an estimated 1.3 million Americans will stop receiving unemployment benefits amid the latest standoff in Washington. Here are five of them.



Job seekers enter a job fair at a new Target retail store on Aug. 15, 2013, in San Francisco. Hundreds of job seekers applied for jobs during a job fair to staff a new Target city store.


Justin Sullivan / Getty Images


About 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans will stop receiving federal unemployment benefits beginning Saturday, the consequence over a debate in Washington about the size and role of government.


House Republicans have refused to fund the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program, which provides federal funds to job seekers who have exhausted their state benefits saying they won't approve money for the program without a way to offset the cost that doesn't include more taxes. Democrats have asked for a three-month extension while Congress debates the issue. A procedural vote for the short-term extension is scheduled for Jan. 6 in the Senate. Since the benefits were put in place in 2008, Congress has extended the program 11 times.


BuzzFeed spoke with several people who will lose their benefits on Saturday to see how it will affect their lives.


The contact information for the interview subjects was provided to BuzzFeed by MomsRising and the National Employment Law Project. The interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.


Bruce and Celeste Leibowitz — Brooklyn, N.Y.


Bruce and Celeste Leibowitz — Brooklyn, N.Y.


Photo courtesy of Celeste Leibowitz


In 2009, Bruce Leibowitz was laid off from his job at the National Envelope Corporation in Long Island City, N.Y. Since then he's struggled to find long-term employment. He's held several odd jobs since, but none have lasted. He's been on unemployment three of the last five years, supported in part by his wife, Celeste, who works as a freelance fundraiser.


"We're managing but we have to be very frugal," Celeste said. "We do go out with friends but there's a lot of things we don't spend money on. I don't buy books; I get everything from the library. We go to maybe one movie a year. Basically we are in a holding pattern where we are making it, but we really can't do without that unemployment money."



"For all of the problems we're going through, we're sort of holding on. This is going to be the thing that throws us over the edge, but we're surviving for now," Bruce said. "I was getting good money [at my old job], about $67,000 a year. Thank god we had enough caution up to a certain point. People earning $30,000, $35,000 — they've already been pushed over the edge. It's just a shame."



"If I can do anything just to bring in some cash, I'll do it. I'm turning 62 at the end of January. My wife and I are really trying to avoid going into Social Security at 62 because benefits are at the lowest point there. We're trying to hold off until 64 or 65, but I don't know if I'll make it that far."




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