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Jobless extended benefits due to end Dec. 31

— Regardless whether negotiations prevent the federal government from going over the “fiscal cliff,” extended unemployment benefits are due to run out Dec. 31, says Department of Employment and Training Regional Director Michael Truckey.

The state agency has sent letters to all 45,000 recipients of the extended benefits, which were extended a year ago after being in effect for 99 weeks in 2010 and 2011, said Truckey. About 1,050 recipients are affected in Franklin and Hampshire counties, he said. The benefits typically cover about half of a recipient’s previous pay.

The letter to unemployment extension recipients points to other resources, including food stamps and housing assistance, if they are eligible. “Many of the people on unemployment now are already on food stamps,” Truckey said, and it may be possible, given their individual case, that they may be eligible for an increased food stamp allotment.

An added wrinkle at the Greenfield Career Center, the receptionist is retiring after 45 years on the job, and Truckey said there is no word yet on whether she will replaced — leaving in question whether people will be able to walk in off the street to file unemployment claims after Dec. 28.

“That will be a ‘feeling the pain’ kind of thing for a lot of people, and not something we want to do,” said Truckey, who added that the situation could be further complicated by state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development offering retirement incentive bonus packages for its staff.

“The telephone system works at the level it does,” he said, alluding to waiting times that many benefit recipients have experienced. “It’s not going to get any better.” Because of new claims for seasonally unemployed workers, such as landscapers and road construction workers, Truckey said 35 to 45 workers showed up Monday morning for new claims, and a similar number appeared Tuesday.

“We had so many people, we had to turn people away because we’re dealing one on one,” he said, adding that because of the large number, a “group orientation” was used on Tuesday, with callbacks to people after they had filled out forms applying for benefits.

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