George Modica, of East Moriches, was laid off from his...

George Modica, of East Moriches, was laid off from his job as a bank manager almost two years ago. With the lack of job opportunities in banking, his family to provide for, his daughter heading off to college in the fall and his unemployment benefits running out in two weeks his is left facing financial challenges. (July 1, 2010) Credit: Jacqueline Connor

East Moriches resident George Modica has been "hoping and praying" that Congress will pass another extension of unemployment benefits. Without it, his benefits will run out in two weeks.

"I don't know what I am going to do," he said Thursday.

Millions of other jobless workers across the country are in a similar situation.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the U.S. Labor Department said a little more than 1.3 million laid-off workers have already lost benefits since the last extension expired at the end of May. The House agreed Thursday to extend jobless benefits. But for the third time in three weeks, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered a similar measure Wednesday night before senators left for vacation.

Many Democrats see jobless benefits as a way to keep the economy from relapsing into recession.

With so much at stake, the tug-of-war in Congress has taken on some urgency for Modica, 53, who lost his job as an assistant bank manager 18 months ago. He has been unable to find work, he and his wife have run out of savings, and their daughter starts college in the fall.

But he won't get his wish for an extension until at least July 11, when Congress returns from a weeklong Independence Day vacation. The prospect of running out of benefits frightens him.

"It's scary," Modica said. "The big word is scary."

The fear among many Republicans and some Democrats is that the nation can't afford to add to it's budget deficit.

It's a view that Laura Salerno of Plainview wrestles with even though she has lost a job twice in the past year and expects her benefits end this week. The computer specialist was unsure whether she was eligible for an extension under the previous deadline.

Salerno, who is in her 40s, said anything that adds to the deficit is a problem, "but there are many people out there who desperately need help. I hope someone can come up with a good idea on how to handle this."

Meanwhile, more people than expected have joined the ranks of the unemployed, according to the latest government data. Initial jobless claims climbed to a higher-than-expected 472,000 for the week ended June 26, up 13,000 from the previous week. A Bloomberg survey of economists had predicted 455,000.

Long Island's employment picture has been slowly improving. As of May, the Island had 99,000 unemployed workers, compared with 103,900 in May of last year. The local economy began adding jobs in the 12 months ended in April, the first time in nearly two years, but growth remains slow.

Glenn Klimpel, 48, of Ronkonkoma, has been out of work for a year and his benefits will run out in five weeks. Without an extension, the project manager said one consequence will be less gas money for job-search meetings.

Still, Klimpel said, "I'm not the worst case."

He's covered by his wife's job's medical benefits. But with his unemployment benefits close to running out, he said he will look for per-diem work and perhaps a job "flipping burgers" if recent interviews don't pan out.

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