Thousands of Hoosiers could lose unemployment benefits

An average of 15,000 Indiana residents could lose unemployment benefits each week starting in May if Congress fails to extend
federal benefits for those out of work more than six months, a state official says.

About 270,000 Hoosiers are currently receiving unemployment benefits, said Marc Lotter, communications director for the Indiana
Department of Workforce Development.

Benefits fall into one of six levels. The first is state unemployment, which is always available; the five other levels consist
of federally funded extensions. Each level provides a different number of weeks of benefits, with all six together totaling
up to 99 weeks, Lotter said.

Congress recessed for its two-week vacation Friday without extending the benefits, and an extension of unemployment insurance
has just expired. A 65 percent subsidy for health insurance benefits for the unemployed under the COBRA program also expired
this week.

The expiration of unemployment insurance means that people who have been out of a job for more than six months will gradually
lose eligibility for the additional weeks of benefits that are fully financed by the federal government.

"You can't transfer from one (level) to the next," Lotter said. "So basically what it should do, is, someone
who exhausts one tier of benefits can't move onto the next tier."

The National Employment Law Project says nearly 1 million people would see their benefits exhausted by the end of April without
another federal extension.

Democrats and Republicans say they want to see the benefits extended, and Democrats who control Congress say even those who
miss checks should eventually get their money.

That's little consolation to Indiana residents like Chris Stines, 49, of Kouts.

He has been out of work nearly a year and says his wife's income isn't enough to support their household. Stines'
benefits have run out, and he has only $65 left.

"I have to find a job right now or else I won't have no bread coming in," he said. "I'll be lucky
to hold onto my house."

Calvin Watt, 50, of Kingsford Heights said Congress should have taken care of the extension before it recessed.

"It's hard to feed my family and get gas money to search for a different job" without unemployment, he said.

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