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My unemployment benefits ran out

These 5 have been unemployed so long enough they exhausted their unemployment insurance - just like half a million Americans about to face the same fate. How did it happen, and how do they cope without a weekly check?

1 of 5
Mary Ortega
Unemployed since: May 2008

Benefits expired: July 2009

Filed in: Pennsylvania

Age: 42

I was working as a store manager at a women's retailer called The Pink Turtle before the whole chain shut down. We did everything we could -- we cut employees' hours, slashed pricing -- but I was laid off in May 2008 when the store closed.

I figured I'd be out of work for three to six months, max. Early in my career I'd been laid off, and it never lasted longer than that. I applied for unemployment, and I received the maximum $528 a week before taxes.

Soon I realized how tough of a road I had ahead of me. Headhunters were telling me how online job posts receive 1,000 resumes. Another big blow came when my partner, Craig, was laid off from Blue Cross/Blue Shield a few months later. He recently found a job in Lancaster, Pa., so he's commuting three hours a day.

I think about what would have happened if Craig and I hadn't moved in together. I probably could have scraped by being single -- but if you're living someplace where cost of living is higher, you're in a tough bind.

Our savings are exhausted, and it's going to be very tight for the next 45 days. If I don't find a job before that, I truly don't know what I'm going to do. I'm grateful for the checks I've received for the past year, but I just wish I could keep getting them somehow.

NEXT: Orion Lyonesse
Last updated July 17 2009: 10:06 AM ET
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