Long-Term Jobless Benefits a 'Lifeline' That's Ending Saturday

PHOTO: Kathy Biscotti says she is in a "panic" over the expiration of her jobless benefits.

Kathy Biscotti is in a "panic," she said just hours before her federal unemployment benefits -- her "lifeline" -- are expected to end.

"I have no savings. I went through all my savings. [The benefits] pay the rent and groceries and utilities, maybe if I'm lucky. If there's enough left," the Baltimore mother said of her $332 a week in unemployment insurance.

"Sometimes, we have to have Oodles of Noodles for dinner or skip meals. We've done a lot of skipping meals since this all started. We went from three meals a day to two meals to sometimes just one meal a day."

Biscotti, 51, is one of the estimated 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers who will lose their federal emergency unemployment benefits Saturday. The benefits, which many Republicans oppose unless the costs are offset in other parts of the budget, were left out of the bipartisan federal budget agreement reached this month.

The federal emergency benefits, which kick in after state jobless aid expires at 26 weeks, have been extended 11 times before. This would be the first time the program lapses since President George W. Bush signed it in 2008.

Tune in to "World News with Diane Sawyer" tonight for more on the Expiration of Long-Term Unemployment Benefits

Senate Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, say renewing the long-term insurance will be an urgent priority when they return from break Jan. 6. The Senate is expected to vote on a three-month extension, but Biscotti worries about keeping a roof over her head in the meantime.

She's "flabbergasted, appalled, disgusted" that Congress went home before extending the benefits.

"They go home to their wonderful, expensive, lavish Holiday celebrations and [they are] having a good old time and they're not worried a bit about us," Biscotti, out of work for six months, said at her small apartment in Baltimore. "They don't care about us, they don't care about us at all.

"If they cared they would've done something about this before they went away on their break. It's a Christmas break. How can you cut somebody off at Christmastime?"

Biscotti has been out of work since June when she was laid off from a real estate company. She spends at least five hours a day on a laptop in her bedroom applying for jobs and believes she has applied for between 200 and 300 jobs, with 20 interviews, including one company that called her back four times.

"I'm just totally overwhelmed with -- depression kicks in," Biscotti said, surrounded by photos of her two sons and granddaughter. "Fear is the hugest factor. I don't want to have to end up living under a bridge. I don't want to have to go to a women's shelter. I've worked my whole life. I've worked since I was 14 years old, always taken care of myself and now I feel like I may not be able to take care of myself anymore."

Biscotti spent most of her life working as a waitress, but she said she wanted out of the restaurant industry in 2004 and took an office assistant position at Morgan Stanley. She was laid off in 2008 and it took her two years to find her position at the real estate company. She worries now that the combination of her age and being out of work for more than six months means she will never get a job.

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