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Unemployment Benefits Expire; Obama Pushes For Extension

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President Barack Obama gives a press conference in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House in Washington on Dec. 20, 2013. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama gives a press conference in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House in Washington on Dec. 20, 2013. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — President Barack Obama said he wants Congress to act quickly to reinstate and extend federal unemployment benefits that officially expired Saturday.

As CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes reported, 1.3 million Americans lost their lifeline from the government.

With no safety net for people like Jawanna McDonald, the end of federal benefits means putting plans on hold. McDonald lost her job at a grocery store last May, and this week, she picked up her last unemployment check.

“It’s very important, especially when it was the only income that I had,” McDonald said.

Congress failed to include a renewal of unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work for more than six months in the budget it passed before the holiday break.

“Just cut somebody’s unemployment off, you know, off, for whatever reason they see fit – I really don’t agree with that,” McDonald said.

When lawmakers return to Washington, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on extending benefits for three months. House Republicans are willing to discuss an extension, if there is a way to pay for it.

“These individuals spend what they get in unemployment benefits. They spend them in their local communities,” said Christine Owens of the National Employment Law Project. “It helps keep the economic engine turning.”

With no safety net, McDonald will have to put her plans for more job training on hold while she looks for work.

“I have to push my schooling off to the side for the moment, just to maintain some employment,” McDonald said.

Others like Mary Lowe, 42, a mother and wife from Ohio are worried about the possibility of losing their homes. Lowe has been on unemployment since February but thought that she would have found work by now.

“I don’t know. Hope I don’t lose my home,” she said.

McDonald was back at the unemployment office Friday, updating her resume. She was optimistic about a recent job interview.

Jobless benefits average about $300 per week. The congressional budget office said extending long-term unemployment benefits through 2014 would cost $19 billion.

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