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Federal unemployment boost expires Friday, changes may cause payment delays

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) Unemployment benefits will shrink next week as a federal $600 boost expires Friday. Congress is debating whether to extend the payments or change them, and changes could cause delays across the country to pay the benefits.

As of Monday July 26, 97,000 people unemployed in Wisconsin are still waiting for their first unemployment check. A DWD spokesperson cautioned if the agency has to reprogram its computers again for any federal changes, payments could get stuck.

"I have a three year old and another on the way," said out of work web developer Chris Berryman.

He's been waiting for an unemployment check since late May. He said he's owed around $8,500 so far.

"I'm draining my bank accounts, luckily my mortgage and all the loans have given me a forebearance," said Berryman.

Starting next week, his checks will shrink by $600 as the federal boost expires and Congress hasn't reached a deal.

"It is a complete denial of the desperation people are feeling right now," said Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee).

Moore voted to extend the $600 payment in  mid-May, but some Republicans in the U.S. Senate disagree.

"We're caught up in too many ideological battles around it," said Moore.

Republicans worry the $600 boost is too generous and keeps people from going back to work. They've proposed cutting the payment down to $200 or coming up with a new payment formula. In a letter to Congress, the National Association of State Workforce Agencies warned it could take states up to 20 weeks to implement whatever change Congress approves.

"The state of Wisconsin needs to get its act together and get this program operational," said Congressman Bryan Steil (R-Janesville).

Steil hopes Congress will act quickly, but he says the federal boost needs to be tweaked.

"Make sure that people are able to cover their bills but not provide an incentive for people to stay home," said Steil.

While Congress debates, people like Berryman say they are running out of hope.

"I probably won't get paid until next year," said Berryman.

A DWD spokesperson said any change that isn't a flat payment will required substantial computer programming time. The National Association of State Workforce Agencies said even a flat payment change, such as going from $600 to $200, could take states between one and five weeks to make the change.

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