TODAY   |  December 28, 2013

As unemployment benefits expire, families struggle to stay afloat

“I didn't think for a minute I would be sitting here today, a year later, no job," said job hunter Nancy Connelly-Cummings, one of the 1.3 million Americans who will lose their long-term unemployment benefits. NBC’s Joe Fryer reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this morning more than a million americans are facing the prospect of a lot less money coming in because of unemployment benefits benefits.

>> up until this morning, unemployment benefits could last more than a year but congress decided not to extend those benefits one more time. as of today, they are back to prerecession levels maxing out after the six months.

>> reporter: when dale lost his job after 36 years of gainful employment he thought it would only take a few weeks to find a new one. that was june. this married father calls unemployment insurance 300 dollars a week before taxes a life saver but that money will now disappear next month because benefits for anyone out of work within six months are going away. leaving sexton with some tough choice.

>> i'm going to have to either look for a temporary part-time job or i'm going to have to seriously consider giving up the house.

>> starting today unemployment benefits will vanish for 1.3 million americans who have been out of work longer than six months. in the first half of 2014 , another 1.9 million americans will lose their benefits. some in congress want to extend the long-term help but opponents question if it's even helping.

>> i am worried about the workers. not that i think they become bad people by becoming unemployed but the longer they are unemployed the less likely they will ever find a job again.

>> reporter: it could be hard to find a job within six months.

>> three unemployed workers for every single job opening , so the odds are against unemployed workers in the labor market .

>> why dale sexton would like to see an extension of benefits noting he would still prefer employment pay over unemployment pay.

>> it's a fraction of what the majority of people make, so i would not want to stay on these benefits long term, no way.

>> reporter: a bipartisan group is working on a plan to extend the long-term benefits whether congress returns next year, but to get enough support, they will need to find a way to pay the annual cost which is about $25 billion.

>> large price tag. joe fryer, thanks.