Federal government to stop funding unemployment benefit extensions

by: Jim Bradley Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Across the Carolinas, lines for people collecting unemployment checks are about to get shorter because the federal government is about to stop funding extensions for unemployment benefits at the end of December.

Those benefits have added months to unemployment payments for thousands of workers in the Charlotte area.

"Certainly for individuals it's an impact," said Harry Bowen, an economist at Queens University. "Each individual is going to feel something. The question is how large is that effect."

The North Carolina Employment Security Commission said an estimated $20 million a month is paid out to people on extended benefits each month. The money is almost always spent quickly on things like rent, food and other essentials.

Taking the money out of the economy will have an impact. But Harry Bowen believes the bigger impact will be on charities that will see greater demand from those no longer getting unemployment checks.

At Loaves and Fishes Pantry, which already provides free grocery items to 12,000 families a month Executive Director Beverly Howard expects demand could double.

"I'm afraid it's going to have a pretty big impact. We're concerned, especially for the families where both Mom and Dad are out of work and collecting unemployment," Howard said.

Crystal Flowe said losing benefits earlier this year sent her to the Loaves and Fishes Pantry. She expects many others will come soon if the unemployment checks stop.

"Bills are still coming. They don't stop just because unemployment checks stop," Flowe said.

Funding for extended benefits is part of the fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington, DC. It is included in the latest proposal from President Barack Obama. It's not included in the Republican plan.