For people like Henry Kight, 59, of Austin, Tex., the possibility that the money might be turned down is a deeply personal issue.
Mr. Kight, who worked for more than three decades as an engineering technician, discovered in September that because of complex state rules, he was not eligible for unemployment insurance after losing a job at a major electronics manufacturer he had landed at the beginning of the year.
Unable to draw jobless benefits, he and his wife have taken on thousands of dollars in credit-card debt to help make ends meet.
It is precisely these kind of regulations, involving such matters as the length of a person’s work history or reason for leaving a job, that the federal government is trying to get the states to change. Such a move could extend benefits to an estimated half-million more people, according to the National Employment Law Project, a liberal group in New York that supports the changes.
Mr. Kight and other unemployed workers said they were incensed to learn they were living in one of a handful of states — many of them among the poorest in the nation — that might not provide the expanded benefits.
“It just seems unreasonable,” Mr. Kight said, “that when people probably need the help the most, that because of partisan activity, or partisan feelings, against the current new administration, that Perry is willing to sacrifice the lives of so many Texans that have been out of work in the last year.”
He was referring to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who has said he may decline the extra money rather than change state policy.
There is also confusion over what parts of the stimulus money are in danger. The governors have mostly said they do not object to the stimulus bill’s $25 per week increase in unemployment benefits, or a new federal extension of benefits.
As a result, many laid-off workers across the South have been fretting over precisely what they might lose out on, even as they express astonishment that they might not receive the help that jobless people in other states will get.
“I don’t understand the whole thing,” said Kelley Joyce, 43, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., about indications from Gov. Mark Sanford that he may reject some of the stimulus financing in that state. “Apparently because he has money and he doesn’t have to worry about everybody else who doesn’t have money.”
On Tuesday, Erica Greer, 32, and her mother, Candace Foss, 59, who lost her job as a data management specialist at Home Depot in late January, went to the State Capitol in downtown Atlanta from Kennesaw, Ga., a suburb where they live, to deliver a message to Gov. Sonny Perdue not to reject any of the stimulus money.
Mr. Perdue has said he fears the long-term consequences of accepting the money.
Ms. Foss got a severance package from Home Depot, so she has not yet applied for unemployment benefits. It appears she would be eligible for benefits, but she and her daughter said they wanted to stand up for unemployed Georgians and fight for their benefits. They wound up speaking to an aide to the governor for about 10 minutes and submitted a letter to Mr. Perdue.
“I don’t think he truly understands the plight of his citizens,” Ms. Foss said. “He’s surrounded by people with good jobs, who make good salaries. He’s not surrounded by people like me.”
I'd say Ms. Foss is probably right about that.