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24K state residents may lose unemployment benefits at year's end

Thousands of Wisconsin residents could lose federal unemployment benefits at the beginning of the New Year if Congress doesn't extend emergency jobless payments.

A person who loses his or her job in Wisconsin is eligible for 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits. After that, emergency federal benefits kick in for 28 weeks.

The emergency benefits, which began at the onset of the recession, are set to expire unless action is taken by the end of the month.

Tamarine Cornelius is a research analyst with the Wisconsin Budget Project, which is an arm of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. She says 24,000 state residents stand to lose benefits as of Jan. 1.

"They'll have their unemployment benefits cut off immediately," says Cornelius. "Then there's another about 42,000 people in Wisconsin who right now are receiving the state-funded benefits. Over the first half of 2014, they'll exhaust the state benefits and would have moved to the federal benefits, but that won't be there."

The federal benefits are designed to be temporary, and Congress has extended them before. Cornelius urges lawmakers to pass another extension because, she says, the economy isn't "back on its feet."

"The average unemployed worker has been looking for a job for 36 weeks which is still really elevated compared to what our normal economy holds," says Cornelius. "So while it should be the goal for Congress to phase out these benefits as the economy improves, the economy isn't there yet."

If the federal benefits are not extended, Cornelius says it could have a negative impact on the national economy since recipients mostly spend their checks on food and other necessities.