Nightly News   |  December 27, 2013

As unemployment benefits expire, families struggle to stay afloat

On Saturday, 1.3 million Americans will lose their long-term unemployment benefits. Although some in Congress want to renew the program, critics say they must find a way to pay for it, and argue long-term benefits can hurt job seekers.  NBC’s Joe Fryer reports

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>>> now to a deadline that's really hitting home for more than a million americans who will lose their long-term unemployment benefits this weekend, which will mean some major belt-tightening for many families already struggling to make ends meet. nbc's joe fryer has our oh report.

>> reporter: for nancy conley cumming, a single mother of three, the first round of bad news came last year when she lost herb job.

>> i didn't think for a minute i would be sitting here today, a year later, no job.

>> reporter: the scottish-born american citizen received her second round of bad new this is month when she learned her unemployment insurance was exhausted. now she's trying to sell her car to save her house.

>> i want to have another job so that i can go back to work and have medical benefits and not have to worry about what i'm going to do next month for my mortgage payment.

>> reporter: more than 4 million americans have been out of work six months or longer. tomorrow, 1.3 million of them will lose their long-term unemployment benefits , including 215,000 in california, 125,000 in new york, and 90,000 in new jersey, 1% of that state's population. some in congress want to renew the program but critics say they must find a way to pay for it, arguing long-term benefits can hurt job seekers.

>> the longer they are unemployed the less likely they are to ever get a job again.

>> reporter: dale sexton lost his job in june and said it is hard to find a job within six months.

>> seems to be the impression ha the people on unemployment benefits are just kind of sitting around, enjoying the money. nothing could be farther from the truth.

>> reporter: a federal reserve study found long-term impacts for the long-term unemployed. ten years down the road they earned 30% less than their peers.

>> while everyone is adversely affected in terms of their future earnings over time by unemployment, the long-term unemployed are substantially worse off.

>> reporter: desperate for any job, conley-cummings spent two hours last week at a grocery store.

>> to try to see a manager to say, hey, i'm looking for work, i'm willing to work, can you help me?

>> reporter: she's still waiting for someone to answer "yes." joe fryer, nbc news, los angeles .