SACRAMENTO -- About one out of three jobless people in California could lose up to $450 a week in federal unemployment benefits late next month, if Congress and the president don't reach a so-called fiscal cliff agreement.
Failure to cut a deal on a complex bundle of proposed tax increases and spending cuts could leave 400,000 Californians and as many as two million people across the country without access to emergency federal assistance that's been available for the last four and one-half years.
Join us for a live video chat at 2:30 p.m. Pacific time on the potential loss in benefits. Business reporter Marc Lifsher and consumer columnist David Lazarus will be talking with Loree Levy of the California Employment Development Department.
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An additional 1 million jobless workers nationwide are expected to lose state benefits by March and won't be able to turn to the federal government for a backstop.
"There's going to be millions of us who, basically, will be out in the streets," said Lis De Bats, 54, an Agoura Hills resident laid off in January from a job as a new-home sales manager. "I'd lose my home and everything that goes along with it. I've used up all my resources."
In California, notices of the impending loss of benefits are being mailed this week. The letters also provide information about other types of state support, including food stamps, welfare and healthcare programs for the poor.
And the benefits are important not just to needy individuals and families but also to economically hard-pressed communities, economists say.
"If you take money out of the economy, it will slow economic growth," said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto. "What's happening in Europe should show us that taking money out of the economy leads to recession."
Deciding to extend federal unemployment benefits is just one of a number of tough choices confronting Congress and the Obama Administration, said Levy.
"They've got a dilemna," he said. "Do you keep people on unemployment forever, knowing that some point we need to bring the (federal budget) deficit down.
"All this stuff is about choices, and you can't protect everybody."
Click here to find out about resources provided by the Employment Development Department.
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