LAWTON, Okla._ Nearly 5,000 long-term unemployed Oklahomans are some of the more than one million Americans now without unemployment benefits.
The long-term benefits were not part of the latest budget deal, but opposition has already come from senators on both sides of aisle who want an extension enacted. By the middle of 2014 there will be two million more people on the chopping block.
The federal extension to these benefits was signed into law in 2008 as a way to help people recover from the recession. Now, anyone who has collected unemployment for more than 26 weeks will be ineligible.
"I guess the job market is improving, but it's still not all the way there," says Jacob Smalley. "We're still waiting for full-time employment."
been looking for a steady source of income for months. He's been bouncing between
part-time jobs with limited hours and using unemployment as a lifeline since March.
"It's the extra money that I need to get to work, to get my wife to work, to get my kids to school, and it's a great supplement to having no money," says Smalley.
This week he received his last check. No more benefits. His lifeline is now severed: "We obviously have to restructure our lifestyle."
He's hopeful about a lead on potential full-time position, but he's still on the hunt for a job that pays more than minimum wage. He'll no longer receive the $200-plus dollars he was getting every week, but considers himself lucky because his wife is employed and their family of five is surviving.
"It pushes the person or individual to know that they really can't lean on unemployment," says Smalley.
Vicki Johnson, a manager with Workforce Oklahoma agrees, adding people will feel the impact but they need a wake-up call.
Workforce Oklahoma provides many resources to help people find employment. The public is able to use their online resources at the center to create a resume and even search and apply for jobs.
"If they will let our employees help them, they're going to do it to the best of their ability to find them something that's paying about what they were making if possible," says Johnson.
She adds, however, when you're unemployed, you can't always be picky.
"If I had to work for $7.25/hr., which is minimum wage or have nothing, I think I would rather get $7.25/hr. than zero," says Johnson, urging the unemployed to jump into any job while continuing to look for something better.