BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Thousands of Marylanders enter the new year with a new challenge. Federal unemployment benefits ended Saturday.

Political reporter Pat Warren explains they are hoping Congress acts to restore assistance as they continue to look for work.

Baltimore resident Kathy Biscotti spent much of the year looking for work.

“It’s horrible to wake up in the morning and not have somewhere to go,” she said. “It’s degrading.”

The unemployment benefit she’s been living on ends this week.

“I wake up in the middle of the night and get in a complete panic of what is going to become of me,” she said.

Out-of-work Marylanders may collect state unemployment benefits for 26 weeks, after which federal emergency benefits kicked in for another 37 weeks. But those federal payments ended Saturday, which means that anyone who has exhausted their Maryland benefits is no longer getting a check. That’s an estimated 25,000 people statewide and there will be thousands more as more job-seekers reach the state’s 26-week limit.

That puts more pressure on job seekers. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is encouraging them to take advantage of available employment resources.

“When I go around the city, a lot of times when I see people, whether it’s in the supermarket, whether I’m doing events, people are talking about wanting to find employment and I talk constantly about our career centers and our community job hubs and I want to really spread the word that there is help available,” she said.

Further debate on Capitol Hill could result in an extension of the federal benefits. The president supports an extension but Republicans seem willing to consider it only if there are other spending cuts to offset it, which leaves Biscotti and a million like her nationwide to worry.

“Am I gonna end up living under a bridge? Am I going to end up homeless?” she said.

The president has called on Congress to make a temporary extension of benefits its first order of business when it reconvenes next week.

The average unemployment benefit in Maryland is $313 a week.

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