Democratic Senators Urge Swift Passage of Unemployment Benefits Extension

Democratic Senators Urge Swift Passage of Unemployment Benefits Extension

Washington - Fourteen Democratic Senators today called on Senate Republicans to stop playing politics and immediately help pass legislation that will provide relief to jobless workers by extending unemployment insurance for the nearly 2 million Americans who will exhaust their benefits by the end of the year. The pending bill would extend unemployment insurance by up to 14 additional weeks for jobless workers in all states and up to 20 weeks in hard-hit states with unemployment levels at or above 8.5 percent. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this extension would be fully offset. Every $1 spent on unemployment benefits has been found to generate $1.61 in new economic demand.

7.6 million Americans have lost their jobs and the deficit has grown massively since the recession began under President Bush in 2007. Now, hundreds of thousands of Americans have exhausted unemployment insurance benefits and another million are expected to exhaust these benefits by the end of this year.

Despite the urgent economic imperative, Republicans have held up the bill for nearly two weeks by offering amendments that have nothing to do with helping the unemployed.

"This unexpected battle over unemployment insurance is putting on display the irresponsible lengths to which our Republican colleagues are willing to go in their strategy of 'No'. They said no to a job-creating economic recovery package, no to health insurance reform, and now no to a safety net for Americans who can't find a job in the most severe economic downturn in generations. If we want to do what is right morally, and if we want to keep our economy afloat while the job creation engine gets back up to full speed, then we can't cut out unemployment insurance when many families need it the most," said U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

"We can stand together now, pass this vital piece of legislation, and provide families with the means to stay in their homes and pay the bills as they look for work in these extraordinarily turbulent times. Or, Republicans can continue to prevent thousands of their own constituents from getting desperately needed assistance," said Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI). "Slow-walking these benefits doesn't just hurt individuals and families; it is bad for businesses and the broader economy. Helping people stay afloat is not a partisan issue -- It is an urgent national issue that demands action now. And it is time for obstructionism to stop being the philosophy of too many Republicans."

"The unemployment extension bill before the Senate is a great bill - one that will stimulate the economy and help unemployed workers across the country struggling to get back on their feet," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). "Helping people who are about to lose a lifeline is the essence of what we do as public servants - that is why this delay is so disappointing. I ask those members who are holding up this urgent legislation for political purposes to do the right thing and pass this extension immediately."

"The Unemployment Insurance program provides a vital safety net during times of economic hardship," said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). "Workers have paid into the system through their hard work, so when they are out of a job they deserve support to see them through tough times. These benefits are fundamental to helping families meet basic necessities - to provide a roof over their heads, to put food on the table, or to keep the heat on. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment and pass it without delay."

"There is a general view that since much of the first stimulus package has not yet impacted the economy, a second one is not necessary. But unemployment benefits are the quickest, most effective form of economic stimulus because the dollars can get out the door fast and will be spent quickly at a time when we need the boost to consumer demand," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY).

"Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the country," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). "Families in Michigan and across the country are struggling to put food on the table. Soon they will be hampered by home heating bills. This extension of unemployment benefits not only provides support when families need it most, it is also one of the fastest, most effective ways to stimulate our economy."

"Families are hurting. In every region of every state, there are people who cannot find jobs today. Minorities are being hit even harder. Extending unemployment benefits is the right thing to do for those who can't find employment and for our economy. We have to pass this now. There should be no obstacles put in the way of passing this bill promptly," said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD).

"More than 14,000 Ohioans will exhaust their benefits this month if we do not act now," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). "Partisan delay of this legislation is a slap in the face to millions of American families. We need to pass this U.I. extension and we need to do it now. I strongly encourage my Republican colleagues to put politics aside and do the right thing."

"Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians have already lost their unemployment insurance and with it a means to help pay the bills as they struggle with long-term unemployment," said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). "After previous bipartisan extensions under this Administration and the last the current obstruction is unconscionable and callous. Americans who have exhausted their benefits can't take an IOU to the grocery store or their mortgage lender while this extension is held up."

"Unemployed individuals need assistance regardless of where they reside, and this compromise represents a fair and appropriate extension of benefits for workers in need," said Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA). "I urge my Senate colleagues to move this legislation forward swiftly as it directly affects the livelihood of so many Americans during these difficult economic times."

"While the economy has begun to stabilize, we are not yet out of the woods. We must make certain that those who have lost their jobs in Delaware and around the country will be able to put food on the table and take care of necessities for their families. This assistance will help those most in need stay on their feet until they can find a new job," said Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-DE).

"1,000 Minnesotans lose their benefits every week. Our economy is making strides toward recovery, but until the job market is back, unemployment benefits are vital. It's time for the Senate to work together to provide this needed relief as soon as possible," said Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).

"Unemployment benefits for 40,000 women and men in Massachusetts, and 1.3 million people across the United States, will run out by the holidays if we do not act to extend their unemployment insurance," said Sen. Paul Kirk (D-MA). "I came to the United States Senate to try to give a voice and a vote for the people of Massachusetts during these critical painful months, and extending unemployment benefits for those who continue to look for work is exactly what we need to do, and do now."