For some in Tampa Bay, the Fiscal Cliff is already here

5:58 PM, Dec 28, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Three days and counting, as we edge toward the fiscal cliff.

On Friday and Saturday, demonstrations are taking place all over Florida, urging lawmakers to reach an agreement. Organizers say it's time to get vocal and tell our representatives to get a deal done.

See Also: Fiscal Cliff Notes
More: What the Fiscal Cliff means to you

For most of us, the effects of the fiscal cliff are just days away, but for some, it's already here.

"Very scary. I don't know what the day after tomorrow is going to bring," said Billy Hewitt, who's been out of work since March. "Tomorrow is a big day for me. For me and many other people."

That's because while most of us are focused on a January 1, 2013 deadline, the cliff comes even earlier for Hewitt and 119,000 Floridians who rely on extended unemployment benefits.

That benefit ends Saturday, December 29.

"Everyone has an ego. They want to win. And while they're trying to win for themselves, we've got people out here struggling," said Hewitt.

Events are being staged all over Florida, calling upon political leaders to take action now to protect poorer and middle class workers from what will essentially be a tax hike.  

Food and clothing drives were slated in Tampa. Phone banks were set up, and letter-writing campaigns, too.

Carmen Schumacher, a volunteer with, says politicians need to set special interests aside, "drop their political posturing," and make a deal.

"If we take action right now, our country will continue to rise up. And why are we going to let it go down again?" she said.

In Florida alone, 7.6 million Florida families could face higher tax rates, translating to hundreds of dollars for people who can least afford it and thousands for middle and upper incomes.

It worries small business owners like Kay Joseph, a Tampa real estate broker who had finally seen her real estate business starting to rebound.

"We need customers," said Joseph, "And if they're not able to get the tax breaks that they need, they're not going to be willing to buy."

Unemployment offices are still encouraging people who rely on the benefits to make application, hoping some sort of deal will be struck, and benefits will be paid retroactively. 

Billy Hewitt sure hopes so. For folks like Hewitt, the fiscal cliff isn't about getting by with less. It's about getting by at all.

His message to Washington?

"Represent our country the right way. Get us jobs. Fix this cliff. Do it now."

On Saturday there's a letter-writing party scheduled from 1:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. The address is 6015 La Playa Ct. in Safety Harbor.

In Tampa, there's a similar letter-writing event being staged between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. at 110 South Manhattan Blvd. in Tampa.

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