Unemployment running out with no COVID deal

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Nearly 27,000 people in Wisconsin are still waiting for an unemployment check, but many more could lose benefits if the president does not sign the latest COVID relief bill passed by Congress.

The economy has not improved for many people. While Wisconsin's unemployment rate dropped by a point last month, fewer people are looking for work and the state is still missing nearly 208,000 jobs.

Around the corner from a stretch of Milwaukee nightlife, life is tough for many.

"How many people are shopping?" asked an Interchange Food Pantry volunteer. "How many people?"

"Two," responded a recipient.

"We don't know how its going to turn out, so I'm very worried," said Willie Cole, who has been unemployed since March.

COVID-19 cost Cole his job.

"I was an independent contractor driving, delivering newspapers for Shepherd Express," said Cole.

Now political disagreements in Washington D.C. may cost him extra unemployment benefits, leaving him with only $200 per week.

"If they would extend it, we'd be getting that extra 300 dollars for 11 weeks, but right now, it's up in the air, we don't know what's going on," said Cole.

"I think lots of people are having difficulty putting food on the table," said Interchange Food Pantry worker Michael Dobish.

If a virus could sicken the economy, these volunteers said one of the symptoms is hunger. The pantry used to serve 1,500 people a month.

"Our numbers are up into 5,000, approaching 6,000 per month," said volunteer Tim Ottman.

Ottman started helping out in April. The pantry expanded into the church's sanctuary. No longer used for gatherings, it holds food that volunteers pick and pack into carts delivering help to the line outside.

"I think there is a concern on the long-term sustainability of being able to provide food in the community," said Ottman.

A community where many get by on economic crumbs.

"We shouldn't have to, not when we're the richest country in the world," said Cole.

This is the final week for the expanded unemployment benefits, unless the president and Congress agree on a deal, 14 million people start the new year without unemployment benefits.

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