"It means I can keep a roof over my head," said Ellen Andrews, a New Yorker who lost her job as an Event Planner last year. She's been supporting herself and her one-year-old son Henry with her unemployment benefits.
"Even though it's a struggle to buy food and everything, it means that I am keeping the lights on and I'm keeping food in the house, sometimes just barely but I'm able to do that," Andrews said. "It's keeping me afloat until I can get to that next job."
A bill to extend unemployment benefits fell short, by 17 votes, of the two-thirds majority needed under a special rule to pass earlier this month. Growing concerns over adding to the deficit have left some members of Congress hesitant about the bill, which is estimated to cost $5 billion a month.
The real tragedy of failing to extend benefits would be the loss of an estimated $5 billion a month in spending that comes from the long-term unemployed, says Heidi Sierholz, an economist and labor market columnist for nonpartisan economic think tank Economic Policy Institute based in Washington, D.C.
"That's $5 billion that's yanked out of the economy every month," Sierholz says. "Each month, almost 1 percent of the GDP will be taken out of the economy if we don't extend benefits, and that's going to be a massive drag on growth."
ABC's Sharyn Alfonsi and Leezel Tanglao contributed to this report.