Nightly News   |  December 11, 2013

Families worry as unemployment benefits draw to an end

Due to the recession, unemployment benefits can last up to 73 weeks – but if Congress doesn’t take action, they’ll go back to 26 weeks on December 28th. That means 1.3 million jobless workers will lose their benefits. NBC’s Joe Fryer reports.

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>>> now to the nation's capital. budget deal we told you about last night. while the agreement avoids a government shutdown next month it sidestepped dealing with the crisis facing 1.3 million americans who have been out of work for a long time. that means their unemployment benefits will stop the at the end of the month unless congress take thes action. nbc's joe fryer talks to some of the families who are worried about what comes next.

>> reporter: for le shawn palmer palmer, a mother of four, much of the morning remains the same -- getting the kids up and ready for school. she's supporting the family with her unemployment.

>> at $375 a week it's really, really tough.

>> reporter: with her computer broken she hunts for work on her tiny cell phone screen. this is week 28 of unemployment. she counts every week because the number has never counted more. her benefits could soon disappear.

>> i need the benefits so i can keep pushing forward so that i won't need the benefits.

>> reporter: until 2009 unemployment benefits lasted 26 weeks. today because of the recession they can go up to 73 weeks. if congress doesn't take action they will go back to 26 weeks on december 28 and 1.3 million jobless workers will lose their benefits. that includes randy russo who, despite living in chicago, keeps the heat low to save money.

>> i don't know what the end game is. i don't know when it would happen. it's just that -- hope. if you don't the have the hope it's truly over.

>> reporter: while unemployment has gradually improved job fairs continue to draw crowds, people who need benefits while they look for work. some economists argue a longer stretch of benefits costs taxpayers billions and can discourage people from look hard for jobs.

>> you get more unemployed people unemployed for a longer time as a consequence of the program.

>> reporter: le shawn is willing to take almost any job.

>> i'm not beyond working in a retail store , at mcdonald's. whatever it take sos my kids aren't homeless.

>> reporter: she's counting the weeks until her benefits end. joe fryer, nbc news, los angeles .