By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The US Congress appears close to going home without extending emergency unemployment benefits which are set to expire December 31st (see related story).

Protest rallies have been cropping up across the country, including in Philadelphia, as organizers try to lean on Congress to get the job done.

Traditionally, long-term benefits were designed to last 26 weeks, but when the severe recession hit in 2008, Congress passed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program to help states extend those benefits up to 99 weeks.  If Congress does not renew the program, the benefits expire.

Today’s jobs rally at the Arch Street Methodist Church was scheduled weeks ago as a “holiday program for laid-off Philadelphians,”‘ with Santa bringing toys for children whose parents are out of work.

But it morphed into a protest.

John Dodd, director of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project (at lectern in photo), quoted an editorial in the Wall Street Journal:  “They said the entire exercise was political but the Republicans have thoroughly botched the politics.”

“The unemployment benefits help you get by, but they don’t take care of all of your bills,” notes Dane Osborne, who was laid off in 2010 after 17 years as a corporate trainer at Home Depot.

Organizers say unemployed workers — including 75,000 Pennsylvanians — will start seeing their benefits dry up  in January, and 281,000 people across the Commonwealth will exhaust benefits by June, without Congressional action.


Top Content On CBSPhilly

Watch & Listen LIVE