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Differing opinions over whether federal unemployment benefit should be extended

Some say the federal pandemic unemployment benefit has been their lifeline, others feel much differently.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There's a lot of concern out there from folks on unemployment on how they're going to pay their bills. 

The federal pandemic unemployment benefit of $600 is scheduled to expire at the end of the month. According to the New York State Department of Labor, under federal rules, the last week of the federal pandemic unemployment benefit in New York State is the end of this week.

A lot of people on unemployment have called this $600 benefit their lifeline.

Of course, there have been a lot of people who have had issues getting on unemployment. And the New York State Department of Labor has had to reinvent their systems, putting on more staff, expanding hours and asking people to file alphabetically, based on their last name to deal with the demand.

On Tuesday, 2 On Your Side spoke with Ashley Gedra. She was laid off in March for an agency that cares for developmentally disabled adults and claimed unemployment.

"I was only given $295 weekly, which is pretty much a quarter of my weekly pay so had it not been for that $600 I really would have been in a very difficult position," she said.

Gedra says she would've had problems providing for her daughter and paying for her house.

Gedra says she just got a call that she'll be going back to work, and she's very excited about that. But, she and many others hope Congress extends the federal unemployment benefit. 

There are a number of industries that don't want to see the benefit extended. 

We've heard from leaders in the restaurant industry and manufacturing sectors who say some of their workers who were laid off have refused to go back to work and instead have claimed unemployment. 

Both the New York State Brewers Association and the Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance say an extension of the federal $600 benefit would keep people home longer. 

Restaurants have said it has been tough to fill positions.

The Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance says people are needed in the manufacturing field from entry-level to skilled workers and that staying on unemployment can be really enticing for some. 

"If you're getting state unemployment plus the additional federal benefit you could be seeing unemployment benefits topping over $1,000 a week and that can be an inhibitor for people going back to work," said Peter Coleman, executive director of the Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance. "Right now we're seeing a significant demand for workers in the manufacturing sector significant need for entry level all the way up to skilled workers."

In the restaurant industry, Christopher Ericson, the executive director of the New York State Brewers Association says, "The number one detriment to people returning to the workforce is not the fear of COVID, it is the enticement of full unemployment benefits combined with the extra $600 payment. It is keeping people on their couch." 

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