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How to know if your benefits will fall off the fiscal cliff

11:19 PM, Dec 28, 2012   |    comments
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If you've received unemployment benefits for more than six months, without action from lawmakers, your last check will arrive the first week in January.

It's one of the many side effects if the nation goes off the "fiscal cliff", and it would impact 1,300 people in Knox County alone, according to government data.

After 26 weeks, most unemployment benefits are funded by the federal government. That's the result of measures passed by congress in 2008 to help people who couldn't find jobs and whose 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits were set to expire.

But that program is set to get cut if lawmakers don't reach a deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

Tennessee Department of Labor Communications Director Jeff Hentschel says claimants should disregard any letters they got stating the duration of their federal benefits.

"Everyone, no matter where you are in the federal benefits, your benefits are ending at the end of this year, unless it gets extended," says Hentschel.

He says if the benefits do expire, there's always a chance lawmakers could reinstate them later.

That's why he's urging claimants to continue to certify their unemployment status via the automated system or online, even if no deal is reached.

He says it could save claimants a big headache of having call in to re-certify if lawmakers wind up extending benefits.

But Hentschel says the situation remains unpredictable. He estimates there are 80,000 current openings posted on the department's website.

He says it may be time for people to start considering accepting positions with lower pay, or further commutes.

If the checks do stop coming it's not just those who cash them that will be affected.

CNN reports in 2011 the average person on unemployment received $1,200 a month.

Multiply that by the 30,000 Tennesseans scheduled to receive those benefits and it adds up to $36 million that won't get put back into local economies.

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