Unemployment benefits disappearing Saturday for more than a million people

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - On Saturday, more than a million workers will lose unemployment benefits.

The emergency unemployment compensation program will expire December 28, and local economists say it could throw our nation's economy into a tailspin.

Talks of expanding the emergency unemployment compensation are sparking debate in Washington D.C.

President Obama signed seven bills into law on Thursday at his vacation home in Hawaii, including a two-year spending bill. The budget did not renew unemployment benefits.

Senate democrats are pushing for an extension of the program, but the price tag is a whopping $25.2 billion.

The emergency compensation was first signed into law in 2008, to help people get back on their feet during the recession. It allowed recipients to collect unemployment benefits for a longer period of time. Instead of collecting 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, states could expand that funding to recipients by an additional 13 to 20 weeks.

On Saturday, anyone who has been collecting unemployment for more than 26 weeks will lose their benefits immediately.

Can't these workers just find jobs? In theory: sure. Yet, it isn't as easy as it sounds.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are three unemployed workers for every job opening. Studies show most companies won't even consider the resumes of those long unemployed.

Chris Butler, an Overland Park based economist, says this could also skew unemployment data.

"If you're not working and not looking, you're not even part of the calculation. We call those people discouraged workers. They may be living in the basement of their parent's home or whatever but they haven't looked for work in the last four weeks, and if you don't include those people you get a healthy looking unemployment rate," he explained.

Butler also estimates if the benefits aren't expanded, more people will turn to disability benefits, social security and may decide to retire early.

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