As benefits end, bleak holidays await 18,000 in city

    Extended unemployment benefits start running out today for an estimated 18,000  Philadelphians. Congress failed to act on extending benefits that had lasted up to 99 weeks. 

    The move comes just in time for Christmas. That means people such as Patricia McNamara of East Oak Lane will have a tough time celebrating.

    “They’ll be no Christmas in my house. It’s ridiculous to spend money on Christmas when I haven’t had an interview in 15 months,” said McNamara.

    McNamara, who lost her city job last year during layoffs, said her age makes it difficult to find work, but she keeps looking.

    Unemployment in Philadelphia has been above 11 percent for a year.

    John Dodds, with the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, said Wednesday  that’s one of the highest rates since the Great Depression.

    “It’s only been two periods when we’ve had unemployment anywhere near this high since the 1930s,” said Dodds. “It’s pretty rough to be ending benefits in a period like this. “

    Dodds said his group has started a toy collection for the children of the unemployed.

    Members of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project are in Washington D.C. today to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and try to lobby Congress to change its mind. Those in Congress who oppose extending the benefits say it would be fiscally irresponsible to add to the $13.8 trillion  national debt.

    The Federal Reserve expects the unemployment rate will remain the same for 2011.

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