Dee DePass has been a Star Tribune business reporter since 1993, covering small business, financial institutions, manufacturing and, most recently, the economy. Originally from New York, Dee came to Minnesota after earning her master's in journalism at the University of Maryland and her undergraduate degree at Vassar College.

Countdown on unemployment insurance extension

Posted by: Dee DePass under Unemployment Updated: December 6, 2011 - 4:31 PM

An estimated 28,100 Minnesotans will lose their unemployment insurance on New Years Day unless Congress extend benefits beyond the Dec. 31 expiration date.

While Republicans in Congress debate the expense of the extensions, Democrats are pushing for relief. Meanwhile, laid off workers are turning to God.

The AFL-CIO announced Tuesday that laid off job hunters will hold prayer vigils across Minnesota and the county on Dec. 8th. The hope is "to call attention to the ongoing jobs crisis and to urge Congress to take immediate action and extend unemployment benefits," said Chris Shields, a spokesperson for the AFL-CIO.

Members of Minnesotans For a Fair Economy and Minnesota clergy have been holding prayer vigils and rallies in Washington since , D.C., since Sunday.

About 2 million Americans will lose their unemployment insurance starting Jan. 1, with more falling off the rolls in the following weeks.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Friday that 43 percent of all the Americans unemployed during the month of November have been without work for more six months. That's 5.7 million people. Most are relying on unemployment insurance to pay for groceries, housing, and other necessities until they get a job and paycheck, labor officials said.

Minnesota AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Steve Hunter said the situation remains dire for many local job seekers because there is still only one job opening for every four or five job candidates. Not extending unemployment places many “families in an impossible situation. If our members of Congress truly prioritize the needs of Minnesotans over tax cuts for the richest 1 percent, they will act now to pass the unemployment insurance benefit extension.”

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