The sweeping federal spending cuts in Washington could soon be felt in many homes across the mid-state. Federal unemployment benefits for some 30,000 Tennesseans will be reduced at the end of this month.
The cuts will affect those who have been on unemployment for more than six months. Their benefits will be reduced by 10.7 percent each week.
For the last few months Dexter Welch has spent his days not at a job, but looking for work.
"It seems like looking for work keeps me busier than actually being on a job working," Welch said.
But that type of work doesn't produce any income. Welch, like thousands of other Tennesseans, relies on his unemployment check each week to get by.
"I have a mortgage," Welch said. "I have a car payment, of course I have to eat. I have utilities. It's what I am surviving on."
Currently Welch receives unemployment money from a state fund. If he can't find a job in another few months his unemployment will come out of a federal account. But that money will soon be reduced, since President Barack Obama signed off on $85 billion worth of automatic budget cuts.
"People are just getting by with unemployment benefits, no one is getting rich on unemployment benefits," said Jeff Hentschel, the spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. "This is just a little more that's being whittled away from that benefit amount they have."
The reduction works out to about $25 a week for anyone who has been on unemployment for more than six months, which for those like Welch could mean the difference between buying groceries or coming to the gas station.
"I may have to decide if I am going to eat or pay my electric bill or my gas bill or even if I'll have gas to continue my job searches," Welch said.
If your unemployment is affected, you can expect to get something in the mail by March 22. There will also be messages about the upcoming cuts when people call the unemployment office or go online to meet their weekly job search requirement.
Due to the sequestration, federal unemployment benefits are set to be reduced through September.
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