Unemployment offices getting inquiries about benefits

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Thousands of out-of-work Americans cashed their final federal unemployment checks the week after Christmas.

On Dec. 28, the 13-week unemployment insurance extension passed by Congress last March expired.

While many had already exhausted their benefits, others have only begun to deal with the cutoff.

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Congress will consider another extension when it resumes this week, but there is a good deal of concern in the country’s deep unemployment pool.

Gary Magee, who manages unemployment benefits at the local Mississippi Employment Security Commission, said his office has been struggling to cope with a growing number of people anxious to know whether benefits will be extended again.

&uot;We have been getting quite a few calls about the extension,&uot; Magee said.

But until Congress acts, Magee and his staff are unable to give out any news, good or bad, concerning further assistance.

&uot;We are in a standby mode waiting to see what will happen,&uot; he said.

Sally Frazier, a workforce development officer at the Louisiana Department of Labor’s Ferriday office, is in a similarly tough spot when it comes to informing people about their benefits.

&uot;We have had inquiries,&uot; she said &uot;(But) we’re waiting on Congress.&uot;

In the meantime, unemployment levels all over the Miss-Lou remain higher than state and national averages: The last available numbers, released in November, put unemployment at 7.8 percent in Adams County and 10.2 in Concordia Parish.

&uot;Things are very urgent,&uot; said Peggy Ballard, employment service manager at the Mississippi Employment Security Commission. &uot;When we pulled into our parking lot at 8 o’clock (Monday), there wasn’t a space.&uot;

And even if Congress does pass another extension, it will only be temporary.