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Millions to go without unemployment checks

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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WSHM) -

The federal government's five year program extending unemployment benefits, will run out Saturday, leaving millions out of work and without an unemployment check.

The plan was not extended in the new budget signed by President Obama.

The Senate is working on a bill that would restore the benefits, but that bill won't be brought up until lawmakers return to work after the new year.

Jawanna McDonald lost her job at a grocery store last May. On Thursday, she picked up her last unemployment check.

"This is very important, especially when it was the only income that I had," said McDonald.

McDonald joins 1.3 million out-of-work Americans whose benefits stop Saturday. The budget Congress just passed did not renew unemployment checks for people who have been out of work for more than six months.

"To just cut somebody's unemployment off, you know, for whatever reason they see fit. I really don't agree with that," said McDonald.

When lawmakers return to Washington, the Senate is expected to vote on extending benefits for three months. House Republicans are willing to discuss an extension, if there is a way to pay for it.  

"These individuals spend what they get in unemployment benefits. They spend them in their local communities. It helps keep the economic engine turning," said Christine Owens from the National Employment Law Project.

With no safety net, McDonald will have to put her plans for more job training on hold, while she looks for work.

"I have to push my schooling off to the side for the moment, just to maintain some employment," said McDonald.

She is back at the unemployment office, updating her resume. She's optimistic about a recent job interview.

Jobless benefits average about $300 a week.  

The Congressional Budget Office said extending long-term unemployment benefits through 2014 would cost $19 billion.

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