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200K California Residents Feel Pinch While Congress Debates Jobless Benefits

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — While Congress debates extension of unemployment benefits to more than 1 million Americans, here in California, it’s estimated that 200,000 people are on hold.

KCAL9’s Political Reporter Dave Bryan says the debates are taking place 3,000 miles away in Washington, but people are feeling the pinch very close to home.

When Oscar Altamirano returns to his family’s apartment in Van Nuys every evening, he has one huge concern — finding a job before his unemployment benefits run out in March..

“I’m really worried,” says the unemployed warehouse worker. “I can’t get a job, I can’t get anything. I’ve applied everywhere. And that is my worry.”

After working for 25 years as a warehouseman, Altamirano was laid off 10 months ago, so now he works the computers at Van Nuys Work Source, scouring the Internet, looking for a job.

n March he says his unemployment benefits will run out unless Congress extends long term unemployment payments. He’s not alone. More than 200,000 Californians lost their jobless benefits a week-and-a-half-ago when the long term program ran out of funds.

“I’m here every day at the career center looking for jobs,” said Nicholas Pedro Christian III, an unemployed construction worker.

His benefits ran out in late December when he was notified by letter.

“I checked my mailbox last month, a couple of weeks ago,” he said, “and it was that the funds were exhausted. My funds was exhausted so I don’t get another extension on my unemployment. It has me worrying for next month.”

Both Christian and Altamirano are hoping Congress will move quickly to approve extended benefits, but from the sound of things in Washington, that’s extremely unlikely.

“We would consider extending emergency unemployment benefits if it was paid for,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner.”There have to be provisions we could agree to that would get our economy moving again.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sounds a little more urgent.

“We need to pass these benefits and we must do it now,” said Pelosi.

Back in Van Nuys, Christian is riding his bike to Work Source to save money, and Altamirano, who says his wife and two teenaged children depend on the unemployment benefits, is walking for the same reason.

“I hope the Congress can help us,” Altimirano said, “We really want it.”

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