The final unemployment checks are arriving this week for thousands of Tennesseans who have been out of work for a very long time.
On Saturday, more than 18,000 Tennesseans lost their unemployment benefits when the federal extension on long-term unemployment benefits expired.
While many job-seekers will still hang onto their benefits, those who've been without a job for more than 26 weeks, and had their benefits provided by an emergency federal extension, are out of luck.
Just months ago, Tiffany Dismukes says she would have been one of those people.
"I would be facing no food on the table, not being able to pay my bills, not able to have clean clothing for my children," said Dismukes.
She had been on unemployment for the last two years, until she was recently hired at a local restaurant.
"We're wanting to work," Dismukes said. "We're wanting to beat that pavement, get on the bus, do what we have to do, walk to work," she added.
In the past, you could only receive unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks, until Congress passed the emergency unemployment compensation program. That allowed states to offer benefits for up to 73 weeks. That law has now expired, and Congress won't revisit it until reconvening in the new year.
In Washington, some Republican leaders don't know if extending benefits past 26 weeks is necessary.
"It's not that I think they become bad people by being unemployed longer," said U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY. "But, the longer they are unemployed, the less likely they are ever to get a job again," he added.
While some Democrats do.
"It helps stimulate our economy, helps stimulate job growth, in addition to providing help for those who desperately need it to keep their families afloat," said U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD.
Trying to find a job has been the toughest job to date for Pat Barrett, 67, of Murfreesboro.
"Because of my age and all the experience I have, no one wants to pay me a decent amount," Barrett said.
Barrett has been working since age 14, and after 31 years of being employed as an office manager, she was let go.
"I do not know why I was let go, unless it was a money issue," Barrett said.
She has been receiving $200 a week in emergency unemployment compensation for more than a year now.
"It's tough out there," she said.
Barrett is one of 18,500 Tennesseans whose unemployment checks came to an end December 28.
Barrett hasn't received an unemployment check since the end of November because of what she calls a glitch in the automatic phone system.
"When they came in with my last questions wanting to know if I had looked for a job, it took no for my answer instead of letting me push one for yes," she said.
The Tennessee Unemployment Insurance Program will continue. Those who qualify can still get up to 26 weeks of state unemployment payments.
But as of June 28, folks can no longer file for unemployment at a Career Center. That now has to be done online, by phone or at the only call center in Nashville.
Department of Labor officials encourage those who are losing their unemployment benefits to visit one of the many Tennessee Career Centers across the state, where about 90,000 jobs are currently available.
The Labor Department is urging anyone who is in need of a job to search http://www.jobs4TN.gov.
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