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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

Unemployed Look To Plan B As Benefits Expire

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A deal between the Obama Administration and Republicans to further extend unemployment benefits and Bush-era tax cuts is still being debated. But, unemployment checks have already stopped for some San Diegans who are shy of the 99-week limit.

— A deal between the Obama Administration and Republicans to further extend unemployment benefits and Bush-era tax cuts is still being debated. But, unemployment checks have already stopped for some San Diegans who are shy of the 99-week limit.

Bad news about the deal would be better than no news for Bret Barger.

“If this doesn’t pass, or if this takes forever to pass, I need to change my strategy,” Barger said.

The Carlsbad business consultant has been making due with short-term project work and unemployment benefits since losing his job in April 2009. Unless Congress approves another benefits extension, Barger’s last unemployment check arrived last week.

Without the benefits, Barger said he’ll have to go after the kind of entry-level jobs he has so far avoided.

“It has allowed me to go out and do networking for the level of the job that I have been vying for. If I’m doing the 9 a.m to 5 p.m. job that I’m not a good fit for, the much lower level job, obviously I lose that opportunity.”

About two million Americans will lose their benefits by the end of the year if Republicans in Congress do not agree to an extension.

Many of the jobless, like Barger, have already cut back on their expenses.

Barger and has wife have a daughter in medical school. “She’s in her third year,” he said. “And, we’re trying to help out, but basically haven’t been able to help out – anymore. Just trying to keep things under control here.”

His unemployment check was enough to cover Barger’s modest mortgage payment each month. Losing it would just leave one more hole to fill.

Kim Forrester, an assistant deputy director with San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Department, said San Diegans concerned about their benefits can learn about other assistance on the department’s website, or by calling 2-1-1.

CalFresh, the program formerly known as food stamps, is one of the programs individuals and families are most likely to qualify for, according to Forrester. She said the county’s CalFresh enrollment has increased by 79 percent in the last two years.

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