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'It's Scary': A Single Mom On Losing Her Extended Unemployment Benefits

1.3 million Americans are estimated to lose their extended unemployment benefits on December 28. In Texas, it will affect 77,000 people.

Approximately 77,000 people in Texas have been receiving emergency unemployment compensation. These are the folks who had already exhausted their regular unemployment insurance benefits after six months. On December 28th, those federal benefits will end too.

Here’s how it will affect one single mom in Lancaster:

Amber Chatman, worked for 15 and a half years at Express Scripts in Irving. Last February, her company gave her some surprising news.

“We were bought out by another company,” Chatman says. “And they basically came through and slashed the workforce, and in a matter of hours, over 100 people were laid off.”

Twenty-six weeks later, her regular unemployment benefits ended. That’s when she got help under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. Every two weeks, she gets a little over $700. But no more.

“And for that to just be cut off completely,” Chatman says. “I mean, I’m down to the basics. I don’t have a fancy new car. I have my rent, my utilities, to provide a roof over me and my son’s head. I mean, it’s scary to not know how you’re going to be able to provide for your household.”

She’s registering for temp agencies, and has considered working for McDonald’s, but her specialty is prescription benefits management, getting medications authorized for the Medicare population.

“I think I’m well qualified in my field,” she says, “but just to know that there are hundreds if not thousands, applying for just a few positions.”

Chatman says she and her son Donovan will be ok for the month of January, but after that, its unchartered waters.

Laurie Bouillion-Larrea is president of Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas. She says unemployed Texans should be encouraged because companies are hiring.

“We have a lot of employers in the Dallas area, as we speak,” Bouillion-Larrea says. “Please encourage people to come to the workforce centers, there’s eight just in Dallas County.”

The Texas Workforce Commission says more than 270,000 jobs were added between November 2012 and last month.

Still, Amber Chatman is worried.

“I don’t know…" she says, "I just told my dad the other day, I was like ‘I’ve been out of work for over year. What have I accomplished?’ It’s all a daze.”

And losing almost $1,500 a month in benefits won’t help. 

Doualy Xaykaothao is a newscaster and reporter for NPR, based in Culver City. She returned to NPR for this role in 2018, and is responsible for writing, producing, and delivering national newscasts. She also reports on breaking news stories for NPR.