Extended unemployment benefits for nearly 2 million Americans begin to run out today, and unless Congress changes its mind, benefits that had been extended up to 99 weeks will end this month.
The average weekly U.S. unemployment benefit is $302.90, although it varies widely, depending on how states calculate the payment.
The Labor Department estimates that, without a Congress-approved extension, about 2 million people will be cut off by Christmas, according to media reports.
Congressional opponents of extending the benefits beyond this month say fiscal responsibility should come first. Republicans in the House and Senate, along with a handful of Democrats, say they're open to extending benefits, but not if it means adding to the $13.8 trillion national debt.
Even as the economy slowly grows, jobs that vanished in the Great Recession have not returned.
The private sector added about 159,000 jobs in October - half as many as needed to reduce the unemployment rate of 9.6 percent, which the Federal Reserve expects will hover near 9 percent for all of next year.