Republicans have cited a variety of reasons for not renewing the federal unemployment benefits. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky told NBC News this week that providing benefits to the long-term unemployed hurts their chances of getting rehired. He also said that Democrats should be willing to raise taxes to pay for continuing benefits instead of adding to the size of the federal budget deficit.

But supporters of additional long-term jobless benefits haven't given up. Members in both houses have introduced measures that could be considered early next year to extend the federal unemployment program through the end of 2014.

In the meantime, the EDD has sent out letters to recipients of the federal aid, alerting them to Saturday's cutoff and advising them to check the department's website for updates at edd.ca.gov

The letters also highlighted a network of available job centers at americasjobcenter.ca.gov and a variety of other government and private social services.

The EDD, meanwhile, has been under attack for its failure to provide timely services to jobless Californians. Last month, the Assembly Insurance Committee took top agency officials to task during an oversight hearing. Unemployed workers testified that it was nearly impossible to reach an operator or caseworker, despite an expensive EDD upgrade of the telephone system.

EDD spokeswoman Loree Levy acknowledged that "we are not able to answer the phones the way we would like and our customers deserve." She blamed the difficulty on federal budget cuts and staff reductions.

That's little consolation to jobless Californians who are struggling to pay their bills.

Ted James LaDuca, an out-of-work graphic artist from San Francisco, said he qualified for unemployment benefits in early November. As of last week, he said he had received only two payments.

"Like so many others, I can't seem to get in touch with anyone from EDD," LaDuca said. "I feel so completely lost and hopeless over this."

marc.lifsher@latimes.com

Twitter: @MarcLifsher