'It is unconscionable:' Washingtonians react to Congress stalemate impacting benefits

Redmond resident Brandi Pierce is a proud grandmother who is now the source of childcare for her daughter’s family in Seattle.

With unemployment benefits set to expire for Brandi the day after Christmas, she is now wondering if she will have enough money for transportation to get to her 7 month-old grandson.

“We are looking down to paring down our phone bills paring down insurance,” Pierce said.

That says a lot coming from her since Pierce says she has always been very frugal.

“We shop at thrift stores, we prefer used,” Pierce said.

Because of the pandemic, she lost her job as a chef consultant at Arthur’s in West Seattle. Although her husband is currently working, Pierce says they need two incomes to thrive.

“I called every single senator the other day I sat on the phone for 3 and half hours and called 100 senators,” Pierce said.

Without congressional action, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA is set to expire on December 26 for millions of Americans including roughly 100,000 Washingtonians.

“It is unconscionable on what you are doing, we elected you, work for us,” Pierce said.

PUA is the federal program that gives benefits to workers who normally would not qualify for regular unemployment benefits.

So people like part time workers, business owners and those self-employed would be impacted.

"Do we make the car payment on time or do we buy groceries” Pierce said.

As they make those hard decisions, Governor Inslee is promising some kind of back up plan to help people avoid the cliff if Congress cannot agree.

On Thursday, Mike Faulk with the Governor’s Office released a statement.

“The governor remains hopeful that Congress will act to extend Pandemic Unemployment Assistance before the end of the year to avoid a benefit cliff for nearly 100,000 Washingtonians. We are closely monitoring congressional negotiations and we’re in constant contact with our congressional partners. Our office has worked diligently with legislative leaders to prepare a state-level backstop if Congress fails to extend these benefits, and as the governor announced Tuesday, we will be prepared to step up to help workers and their families who would face a lapse in PUA benefits if Congress fails to act before December 26. Additional details on benefit level and duration will be provided as we know more about what Congress will do in the days ahead.”