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Thousands of Iowans Still Without Unemployment Benefits

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Bob Shultis of Cedar Rapids lost his job at Clipper Windpower in June 2011. His unemployment benefits — along with those of millions of other Americans — ran out in December last year. For the next three months, he and his family felt the squeeze.

“There was less food on the table, to the point where every meal was basically rationed,” said Shultis.

After living off his savings and 401K, Shultis was finally hired at an energy consulting firm in April this year.

He considers himself one of the lucky ones.

“We never were to the point of where we were going to be immediately homeless or destitute, but it was certainly not a comfortable situation to be in,” Shultis told us.

The situation in Congress is also causing discomfort, as legislation to kick-start emergency unemployment compensation still is in the works. But union leaders like Danny Homan, President of AFSCME Council 61, said Iowa’s Republican lawmakers Steve King and Tom Latham are playing keepaway with the livelihood of Iowans without jobs.

“Both of them are buying into the thought process that, ‘well, if we cut off unemployment, these lazy unemployed people will get off their fannies and go find a job.’ That’s not the case,” Homan told us.

However, in a written statement, Congressman Tom Latham said lawmakers are being blocked from a vote to restart the federal benefits program, pointing the blame at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Latham said members of the Senate need to convince Reid to allow a vote.

In the meantime, Shultis said he keeps in touch with former Clipper co-workers still out of work, and out of their element.

“There are quite a few that have taken jobs that are substantially less in terms of pay, and in terms of being able to use one’s skill set,” Shultis explained.

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