CARSON CITY, NV--The clock is ticking for Congress to extend Emergency Unemployment Compensation for those out of work. The program currently allows people to receive unemployment benefits for up to 73 weeks, but if it's not continued, benefits will drop to a maximum of 26 weeks. 17,000 Nevadans would lose their benefits right away in the new year. While the job market is improving, the loss of benefits still has some serious implications for those involved.
It's another day of job hunting for Jim Eckert, who's been unemployed for several months.
"In the last week I have applied to 8 different places. Home Depot over here is one, Walmart right here. I am going to do Lowes next," said Eckert.
Still no luck. Jim's situation is typical in Nevada, which still has the nation's highest unemployment rate at 9.3%.
"They are taking applications but they are probably just filing them until they actually need people. Which I don't know when that's gonna be," Eckert.
For now Jim's living off unemployment insurance but it's about to dry up. At the end of the year the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program expires, leaving 17,000 Nevadans without a check.
"There is a possibility that the program will be continued; however, that is really in the hands of Congress," said Jeffery Frischmann with DETR.
The disappearing benefits are a product of a budget deal in Congress that doesn't account extending unemployment insurance.
"What we are encouraging those Nevadans to do that are currently on the program is to continue filing through January," said Frischmann
In the past, Congress extended the benefits in January; then payments were made out retroactively. That could happen again, but that's no consolation to Jim Eckert, who's blaming a do-nothing Congress. He hopes he can just make ends meet.
"I think they need to focus more on the people instead of their own agenda," said Eckert.
State unemployment benefits that last for 26 weeks are not affected. It's the federal extension of 47 weeks that will be decided by Congress. The last payment on the extension program will be paid out on the week of December 28th.