• ‘Fiscal cliff' could end unemployment benefits for thousands of Central Floridians


    CENTRAL FLORIDA - The “fiscal cliff” is set to end unemployment benefits for thousands of people in Central Florida.

    The state just sent out letters to nearly 120,000 Floridians saying without a deal, their benefits will run out at the end of the month.

    Ricardo Mateo is a local licensed respiratory therapist.

    He lost his job in August and just found out today that unless Congress acts, his unemployment benefits will run out Dec. 29.

    "I'm losing my house right now, foreclosure, and I'm a single father of two kids. I'm struggling with this economy and trying to get help somehow," Mateo said.

    Mateo is one of thousands in Central Florida who received a similar letter.

    "One more check, and I don't know what I'm going to do, no place to go, no money. Two kids," Mateo said.

    Mateo has already used up his employer-funded unemployment benefits.

    He and 120,000 other Floridians have been eligible for up to 18 more months of emergency benefits paid for by taxpayers.

    But that benefit is among the many programs set to expire at the end of the month in what is known as the “fiscal cliff.”

    From Wednesday, job seekers only have 24 days before the emergency benefits are set to expire on Dec. 29.

    "If I have no choice, I'll do anything, wash cars," Mateo said.

    Mateo said he's sent out dozens of resumes but rarely gets a response from employers.

    He told his 15- and 16-year-old children he can't buy them presents for Christmas this year.

    "They said OK pop, just find a job," Mateo said.

    Florida's employer-funded benefits are also set to be reduced by four weeks starting in January. That is because the state's unemployment rate has gone down. In theory, more jobs are available.

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