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Unemployment Benefits Set To Run Out For Many N.C. Residents

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Emergency unemployment benefits for thousands of people in our state are set to run out. Saturday is the last day those people will get paid, leaving many to look for other options.

Lori Babcock has been out of work for more than a year. She said she is still struggling to find a job in rural Warren County.

"That's why I'm in Raleigh. There's no work there and what few jobs there are don't pay enough to cover your bills," she said.

Babcock is one of 250,000 North Carolinians who are unemployed. Things are about to get even tougher for 50,000 of them: They lose their benefits on Saturday.

"You can't ask the bank or credit card company to wait until next month. That's what Congress is asking people to do and it's going to be hard," said Harry Payne, of the Employment Security Commission.

Lawmakers could not decide how long to extend long-term unemployment benefits, so they did not extend them at all. People like Babcock are being encouraged to file for an extension anyway in hopes the benefits will be restored, but she said she knows the only real solution is finding a new job.

"I think I will. I haven't given up. I won't turn into a couch potato yet," she said. "Sooner or later, somebody is going to call."

State officials are confident Congress and the Bush administration will extend the benefits next year and make them retroactive to Saturday's cutoff date.

According to recent statistics, North Carolina's unemployment rate is 6.1 percent, the sixth highest in the country. The state's record high was 10 percent in 1983.


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