Congress fails to extend jobless benefits

Posted: Updated:

Thousands of Arizonans woke up Wednesday wondering if they'll even have a place to sleep in the next few weeks.

Their federal unemployment benefits expired at midnight after congress failed to pass an extension for another year.

The clock is ticking for people like Maribel Gutierrez. She lost her job about two years ago.  Since then, she's been living off her unemployment benefits, less than $300 a week.

It's been hard for her and it's about to get even harder. Earlier this year congress temporarily extended unemployment benefits to last 99 weeks rather than just 6 months, but the extension has expired and Maribel got her last unemployment check in the mail Wednesday.

"It's been really hard for me because I've never been in this situation before where its gotten this bad," said Maribel.

Nearly 2 million people nationwide will lose their benefits.

Opponents of the extension say some of those people abuse the system, collecting their money without even trying to find a job. They also say it's time to control the nation's nearly $14 trillion debt.

"There's no turning back now, the era of debt denial and the denial of its consequences is over," said National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Co-Chair Erskine Bowles.

In the meantime, Maribel's quest for a job has become her full-time job. She's at the Pima One Stop every day searching the web and working on her resume.

"It doesn't do me any good to sob around the house," said Maribel.

And like so many others, Maribel's just hoping to find a job before time runs out.

"At this moment I think everybody's so desperate that whatever comes up is good," said Maribel.

Unless congress changes its mind about the extension, 52,000 people in Arizona will lose their benefits by the new year.