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End to benefits approaching for long-term unemployed

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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- Stores are beginning to bustle with folks out Christmas shopping, but for thousands of people receiving unemployment benefits in our area, the biggest worry will soon be just keeping a roof over their heads.

"I'm at a loss as far as what will happen or what I'll do when this ends if I don't have work," Anthony Harrison said.

For Harrison and 4,000 others like him in our area, time to find work is running short.

In 2008, at the height of the recession, Congress approved extending unemployment from 26 weeks to as long as two years. But if Congress does not act soon, on December 29, the extension will expire, and long-time job seekers will get their last checks.

"It's not like we own fancy cars," Harrison said. "We certainly don't live in a mansion or anything like that. It would just mean being able to put groceries on the table."

Harrison is in his 50s, and this is the first time he has not had a job since he was 14. Despite spending more than 50 hours a week searching, he still cannot find work.

"It just takes the wind out of your sails when you keeping hearing 'No' or getting rejection letters," Harrison said.

With the holidays approaching, Harrison says this could not come at a worse time.

"We'll be very modest in our gift-giving and probably just to immediate family," he said.

To those who say two years is too long, Harrison has strong words.

"Don't say that unless you've walked a mile in my shoes, quite frankly," he said. "I'd rather have a job than unemployment. I really would."

It is still not clear if lawmakers will continue the extension program, which includes about 87,000 North Carolinians. Congress has just two more weeks in this year's session.

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