WOODBURY - Extended unemployment benefits have expired for more than 1 million Americans after Congress failed to extend them following weeks of back-and-forth discussions in Washington.
Republicans say a yearlong extension would be too costly, with an estimated pricetag of $25 billion. But Democrats argue that benefits help families and businesses because it allows people to spend money they normally wouldn't have.
Those who are losing their benefits have been out of work for more than 26 weeks and are finding themselves caught in a the middle of a political battle. Among them is Chris Fidis, of West Hempstead, who says he's been unemployed since May 2012 after losing his job as a telecommunications manager. He's been on multiple interviews, but he believes several factors are keeping him out of work, such as being overqualified and 55 years old.
Fidis and his wife have four children, including two in college, and they've been relying on long-term unemployment benefits to make ends meet. Those benefits vanished today for Fidis and about 1.3 million other Americans.
Congress had voted to renew the benefits 11 times since 2008, but did not in the latest budget deal. Many Republicans said the benefits are too expensive but earlier this month, a handful of Republicans, including Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) sent party leadership a letter calling for a temporary extension.
Last week, Democratic Reps. Steve Israel and Tim Bishop blasted the GOP for allowing the benefits to expire.
House Speaker John Boehner has said he may be willing to negotiate an extension, but only if it comes with cuts elsewhere in the budget.