More than 1 million Americans are bracing for a harrowing, post-Christmas jolt as federal unemployment benefits come to a sudden halt this weekend.
The development entails potentially significant implications for the recovering U.S. economy and sets up a tense battle when Congress reconvenes in the new year.
For families dependent on cash assistance, the end of the federal government's "emergency unemployment compensation" will mean some difficult belt-tightening as enrollees lose their average monthly stipend of $1,166.
Jobless rates could drop.
But analysts say the economy may suffer with less money for consumers to spend on everything from clothes to cars. Having let the "emergency" program expire as part of a budget deal, it's unclear if Congress has the appetite to start it anew.
The Obama administration says the expiration of federal unemployment benefits will be a blow to the economy and to families.
The White House added, Friday, that it was disappointed Congress failed to extend the long-term benefits before leaving for the holidays.
An estimated 1.3 million people will be cut off when cash payments end on Saturday.