Thousands of Minnesotans Lose Unemployment Benefits

Updated: 12/30/2013 10:10 AM By: Beth McDonough

Thousands of Minnesotans are wondering how they'll pay their bills after an abrupt end to unemployment insurance compensation on Saturday.

Around 8,500 Minnesota residents lost their unemployment benefits. Next year, they'll be joined by another 57,000 who will lose unemployment extensions. That's 65,000 people affected in the state from a decision made across the country by Congress.

Both Minnesota Senator's Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar argued for an extension. In an email to Senate leaders they insisted, "benefits are a critical component of our ongoing recovery."

A spokesperson for the Department of Employment and Economic Development, or DEED, said Minnesota has been strong in it's recovery. The unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.

As of 2008, the duration of unemployment benefits in the state was ten to 26 weeks, but benefits could be extended another 14 weeks during times of high unemployment or other special circumstances. DEED sent out letters warning people of the change.

KSTP has received emotional emails, according to Reporter Beth McDonough. One from a Minneapolis woman who worked her entire life, was laid-off, has now lost her benefits and will have to go on welfare to survive.

McDonough talked with another woman, who calls it the worst holiday ever. Lisa Dvorak of Champlin is out of work and out of benefits.

"Our Christmas was... I just want a job, I'm sorry," Dvorak said. "I couldn't believe it, I knew it was coming but I didn't believe it, I'm like now what."

Dvorak was laid-off last March from her long-term job in health insurance. The only compensation the 48-year-old Dvorak has been getting for months, has been cut off. For her, unemployment wasn't a luxury, it was a lifeline.

"The rugs been pulled out from under me," Dvorak said. "You wonder what's going to happen next, how are we going to get by?"

President Obama indicated he wants an extension as soon as lawmakers return next month, but some members of Congress contend the $26 billion program costs too much.

Dvorak wasn't waiting until her unemployment ran out before trying to find a job, she said. But now, she's worried.

"I don't want to sell anything I don't want to lose anything," Dvorak said. "We cut back on what we do."