The bi-partisan tax cut deal became official Friday. $858-billion deal spares Americans at every income level from a tax increase come January. Benefits will also be renewed for the long-term unemployed... however not everyone will receive these perks.
$57 billion will be allocated specifically for the unemployed but there is one catch. Those who are jobless can only receive benefits for a total of 99 weeks. After that time, all benefits, including the newest extension, will be gone.
"Clearly Congress has extended the benefits and extended the benefits and extended the benefits," says Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tim Chase, "There is a point at which those unemployed folks cease to get benefits and then they are on welfare. And so there's a larger number of folks who are reaching that point every day that we've seen, quite frankly, in my lifetime."
Those long term unemployed are not counted in the latest unemployment numbers released Friday. Although the figures look rosy, with Texoma's unemployment rate at 7.6%, as opposed to the national average of 9.3%, an important segment of the population is not accounted for.
"The unemployment numbers, when they get to that point of going off of the unemployment compensation and onto welfare, they are no longer counted as being in the workforce," explains Chase, "Many of them are willing and able and want to work, but they are not counted by the federal government as being in the labor market anymore."
Here at home, Wichita Falls has created between 800 and 1,000 new jobs this year, a growth that the Chamber President says is promising.
"We've had steady growth, all be it small, in our economy and that's why you don't see us at the same level as the state, and thank goodness we are not at the same level as the nation in terms of jobs lost here," he says.
Although Wichita Falls has seen growth, there is still a lot more work that needs to be done. "We're making progress in the right direction, but that doesn't mean that there are folks out there who are unemployed and who need jobs."
President Chase says right now there are about 500 jobs available. However many of these positions are highly trained professions in either the medical or technical field.
Click here to see the Wichita Falls unemployment numbers.