Some five thousand Rhode Islanders are among the more than one million Americans affected by the expiration of emergency unemployment benefits today.
Rhonda McMichael, of East Providence, is one of those affected, she is unemployed and no has no more benefits to get by while looking for work. "I'm 54 years old, worked all of my life, born and raised here in Rhode Island. I've exhausted all my funds, my 401k, I'm actually a breast cancer survivor, I can no longer afford my medications"
McMichael is one of three constituents put forward by Congressman David Cicilline's office Saturday to put a face on the predicament so many are in right now.
Erica Campanella of North Providence is in the field of graphic design, and she shared her story with the those in attendance on Saturday, "I've been laid off 5 times since 2008, I am an art school graduate I knew it was going to be tough when I got out."
Clarice Thompson's partner was laid off in July; they've had to make tough choices even before this benefits expiration. She explained those choices, "I was on her benefit package when she got laid off, we had to pick up the Cobra but we only picked it up for her because that's all we could afford to do."
NBC 10 talked to Rep. David Cicilline, (D) Rhode Island, prior to the press conference and asked him about the argument that the state can't afford to extend these benefits, and he answered "I don't think we can afford NOT to extend them, this is a time of very serious unemployment, we have the highest unemployment in the country right now."
Cicilline says in the long run ending the benefits hurts the economy. He plans to introduce a bill January 7th that retroactively extends the emergency benefits and pays for them.
Labor and Training director Charles Fogarty is urging people who are the losing their benefits to continue to certify with DLT every week; "even though they won't be eligible for benefits right now if they certify, when Congress does restore those benefits, we'll be able to pay them retroactively much more quickly."
This as people affected are hoping Congress acts sooner rather than later.