thats messed up........
By LEIGH STROPE, AP Labor Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Jo-Anne Hurlston can't find a job after nearly six months of searching, even with her master's degree and experience in education, human resources and the hospitality industry.
She's one of nearly 1 million unemployed workers across the country who will start losing jobless benefits three days after Christmas because Congress failed to grant an extension before leaving for the year.
"All the money that's being spent on homeland security and we're left stranded," said Hurlston, 47, a single mother with a 12-year-old daughter. "If they want more money for homeland security, we have to be able to work to pay taxes."
Congress passed a 13-week extension in federal benefits in March, on top of the maximum 26 weeks that laid-off workers typically can receive through states. But the extension benefits start expiring Dec. 28. Without congressional action, an estimated 820,000 people will lose benefits that day, with an additional 95,000 each week thereafter.
Democratic leaders made a last-ditch appeal Thursday to the White House, asking President Bush (news - web sites) to urge House Republican leaders to pass the Senate's extension plan when they convene Friday. The White House has remained on the sidelines in the debate.
"We strongly urge you to take action to help these families," said the letter from outgoing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt.
Asked about the Democrats' letter, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (news - web sites) told reporters en route to Russia with the president that extending unemployment benefits was a matter to be worked out by the House and Senate. Fleischer made clear that Bush did not intend to take the lead on the issue.
"The House and the Senate have to get something done in order for the president to have something to sign," Fleischer said, refusing six times to state outright Bush's position on extending benefits.
The Senate and House passed separate legislation last week providing for another extension. But each side refused to accept the other's plan, and the Senate adjourned Wednesday for the year.
House leaders argue that the Senate should have passed their plan, which was approved first and costs less.
"The House will not address the issue due to the exorbitant costs associated with it," said Greg Crist, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas.
GOP leaders also say the economy is improving. The nation's unemployment rate climbed to 5.7 percent last month, while in previous recessions, the rate was much higher — 10.8 percent in 1983 and 7.8 percent in 1992.
On Thursday, the Labor Department (news - web sites) reported that new applications for unemployment insurance fell by a seasonally adjusted 25,000 to 376,000 for the work week ending Nov. 16, leaving claims at their lowest level since the week ending July 20.
Hurlston was laid off in June from her $42,000-a-year job at the Marriott Hospitality Public Charter School in Washington, where she was dean of career and student services. She had worked there for three years.
She receives about $550 every two weeks in unemployment benefits. Hurlston, who is living with her mother, is substitute teaching for extra money, but it hardly pays the bills. For that, she's forced to dip into her retirement savings. She's sent out hundreds of resumes and has been called in for just two interviews without success.
"In the beginning there was anger, then frustration and now distress," she said. "I never ever thought it would take this long to find a job. Without my mother I probably would be in a homeless shelter right now."