Unemployment Benefits

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This month hundreds of laid-off stateline workers will lose their unemployment benefits, but some local leaders are urging congress to approve a federal program to extend those benefits.

Her 18-month struggle to find a job brings tears to Mary Cunningham's eyes.

"I have literally applied for hundreds of jobs. I've had interviews all over the country, but there are so many qualified people in the market right now," says Cunningham.

The Rockford mother's unemployment benefits expired in 2003 and she doesn't want others to experience the same pain and problems.

Cunningham says, "Your house may be at risk. Your car may be at risk. You may have already filed for bankruptcy."

The stateline has been hit hard by business closures and layoffs, and at the end of this month, 600 local workers will lose their unemployment benefits.

Winnebago County Democratic Party Chairman Greg Tuite says, "We need this extension so they have something to live on. People are just scrapping by and without [the extension] people are going to have to turn to other sources, whether it be general assistance or public aid."

It's an election year, and democrats are attacking the Bush administration on all fronts, especially the economy and job creation.

"I'm sure we'll hear [the president] talk about his grand plans for mars, but what about his plans for Illinois. What about plans for the United States and plans to get this economy back on the road? We've heard nothing," says Stacey Zolt, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokeswoman.

Lawmakers allowed the program for laid-off workers to expire in December citing an improving economy.

A spokesman in Congressman Don Manzullo's office says the lawmaker strongly supports the 13-week extension and has sent letters to house leadership urging them to bring the issue up for a vote.