Hundreds of unemployed workers in the Firelands area will lose unemployment benefits this month if Congress doesn't approve an extension.
According to local and state Job and Family Services offices, a total of 2,200 people in Erie, Ottawa, Sandusky and Huron counties will no longer receive unemployment benefit checks.
They're among 108,000 Ohioans and 2 million Americans who could lose unemployment benefits this month.
According to Benjamin Johnson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, only a small percentage of those people will have reached the 99-week limit on unemployment benefits.
In good economic times, unemployed people are eligible for up to 26 weeks of benefits.
But during times of economic tumult, those benefits are typically extended to keep families afloat until employers start hiring again.
In this current economic downturn, the federal government has approved unemployment extensions of up to 99 weeks in the hardest hit states, like Ohio.
Without funding, though, those extensions will dry up.
Ohio Job and Family Services has created two websites to help people find resources as they weather long bouts of unemployment.
ohioheretohelp.com is a clearing house for assistance programs in Ohio
odjfsbenefits.ohio.gov helps people apply for food, cash or medical assistance online
So far, attempts to continue the unemployment extensions have failed in Congress.
More people will fall off unemployment rolls in January and February if Congress does nothing.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told Ohio reporters Wednesday he is determined to keep pushing until unemployment benefits are extended.
"I think there is a reasonably good chance we will get it done here," he said, adding that he's willing to work through the rest of December if that's what it takes.
"If Republicans continue to block extending unemployment benefits, they are going to work over Christmas," Brown said.
On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Brown has been reading letters from Ohioans out of work for months, including people who are struggling to keep their homes and take care of their families.
Republicans have maintained this stance: They won't approve the unemployment extension unless it's funded by cuts made elsewhere in the budget.
Calls to the press office of Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, were not returned Thursday afternoon.
Local social-service agencies, meanwhile, are gearing to help those who stand to lose their unemployment checks.
"The timing of this is especially bad for Ottawa County because there are no seasonal jobs in December," said Chris Galvin, Ottawa County's United Way director.
It's also too late, in many cases, for families to apply for financial assistance for the holidays.
Area agencies may be able to help unemployed workers and families pay for utilities, food and other critical services.
Galvin said she's holding out hope Congress will find a way to approve the benefit extension.
"The unemployment rate has been going down, but not as quickly obviously as we would like it to go down," said Trista Piccola, workforce administrator at Huron County Job and Family Services.
"We're prepared in our job store and in our family support area, so if people need alternative resources we can help them with that," Piccola said.
The workforce development staff helps people polish their resumes and sets them up with job training. Those services are also provided at job stores in Erie, Ottawa and Sandusky counties.
Late this summer, Huron County Job and Family Services braced as about 700 county residents maxed out their unemployment benefits, Piccola said.
Fortunately, the agency didn't see a massive jump in cases.
"(That's) a good thing, people found alternative resources to get those needs met," she said.
*Reporter Tom Jackson contributed to this report.