NEW CITY - Rep. Nita Lowey sat down with local union representatives and some of their out-of-work union members in New City today to talk about the tough economic times they are facing.

About 5,000 job seekers in the Hudson Valley have lost their unemployment benefits after they expired at the end of December.

Union electrician Mark Heppner, of Monroe, says the expired benefits were a lifeline for many families, including his. "It's important to have the extension of benefits," he told Lowey. "You know, we're just holding on by our fingernails."

Representatives of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 363 tell News 12 that upward of 1,500 skilled workers they represent in the Hudson Valley are without work. They say unemployment benefits are crucial to keeping families afloat until work turns up.

The Democratic congresswoman said she agrees. "The bottom line is unemployment insurance should be passed now," Lowey said.

Lower added that she is co-sponsoring a bill that would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

For more on the meeting between union leaders and Rep. Lowey, click on the video to the left of this article or visit Channel 612.