HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Almost 17,000 Hawaii residents receive regular unemployment benefits up to 26 weeks. Another 11,000 are on extended benefits that go up to a maximum 73 weeks. It's those extended checks that are on the chopping block.
Thirty-nine-year-old unemployed contractor Sampson Bohol has two weeks left until his extended jobless benefits run out.
"Just try to remain positive, you know? Hope for the best and expect the worst, and you never get let down," Bohol said.
The production engineer headed to the unemployment office in Honolulu to try to figure out what he can do next for his family of six.
"Some bills have gone unpaid, as you take priority for which is more important. And needless to say, it has been a little bit more rough," Bohol said.
Like Sampson, some 2,500 Hawaii residents a month will lose their extended jobless benefits after federal lawmakers failed to renew the program by Nov. 30. Two million Americans are poised to be cut-off once their benefits expire.
Congress first extended unemployment compensation back in the summer of 2008 in the midst of the economic crisis. Since then in Hawaii, more than $400 million in benefits have been paid to some 48,000 island residents.
"We've known for awhile that Congress had to extend, and we were watching very closely to see if the extension would happen," Labor and Industrial Relations interim director Pearl Imada Iboshi said.
Iboshi says Congress has extended unemployment benefits after they've expired before and made those benefits retro-active. It makes their job even harder.
"It's also very time-consuming, too, to tell everybody, 'no, it's off' and then, to put everybody back on and then, pay back," Iboshi said.
Stephanie Farrell recently received a notice saying her jobless benefits would be cut-off. Farrell went on unemployment last year after being laid-off at a timeshare. She came to the unemployment office to find out what her options are. If she loses her benefits, she says she'll have to turn to welfare and food stamps.
"They said that I did all the weeks. Like, they checked and said I've exhausted it. I used, you know, I want to make sure that I've used it all," Farrell said,
"It's totally driven by Congress, and so, we monitor the situation very closely. We do get constant updates from the federal government, as well," Iboshi said.
For now, the Labor Department will monitor updates from the federal government while Sampson Bohol considers what his children's Christmas will be like.
"The tree will look like Charlie Brown's Christmas," Bohol said.
Hawaii's latest unemployment rate is actually the sixth lowest in the nation, 6.4 percent.
And the State Labor Department reports some positives: job creation in the hospitality sector and stabilization for construction.