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WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an effort to stabilize the economy and prevent 1.3 million Americans from having their federal jobless benefits cut off, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) recently to introduce the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) Extension Act of 2013. This bill will provide relief for both states and struggling families by extending federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits through 2014. Similar legislation is being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today by U.S. Representative Sander Levin (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee.
The unemployment insurance system is a partnership between the federal government and state governments that provides a temporary weekly benefit to qualified workers who lose their job and are seeking work. The amount of that benefit is based in part on a worker’s past earnings.
Failure to preserve UI will hurt 1.3 million Americans who will be cut off at the end of the year, and nearly another 1.9 million Americans will be denied access to the emergency program during the first six months of next year. If Congress does not renew the law, then people who file for unemployment next year will only qualify for state benefits, which last a maximum of 26 weeks. In Iowa, 4,300 jobseekers will be cut off from unemployment insurance at the end of this year and another 18,200 will exhaust their state benefits between January and June with no other program to turn to.
“For millions of families, unemployment benefits are a crucial lifeline that allows them to pay bills and put food on the table while they look for new work,” Harkin said. “Our economy is still continuing to recover, with 4 million Americans out of work and looking for a new job for at least 6 months. This aid not only helps these families, but it also helps the businesses and communities where those families live and shop. It is absolutely essential that we extend federal unemployment insurance before it expires next month. I join my colleagues in the House and Senate in calling for an extension of this aid so that we can continue to strengthen our economy and the middle class.”
“Preserving unemployment insurance will help jobseekers, businesses, and states and provide a major economic boost to the national economy as well,” Reed said, who noted that preserving UI would help prevent 13,800 Rhode Island families from losing their benefits next year. “Maintaining UI is part of a broad range of pro-growth and pro-jobs policies that Congress should be enacting. We need to bridge the partisan divide and do what is best for American families and our economy: bolster consumer demand, provide some economic certainty, and preserve UI.”
“Both parties have extended emergency unemployment insurance in times of high unemployment and we need to continue that now,” Stabenow said. “The economy is getting better, but unemployment is still too high and there are still three people looking for work for every one job opening. Congress needs to focus on helping businesses create jobs, not pull the rug out from families unemployed through no fault of their own.”
Although the economy has been expanding for over four years, unemployment remains unacceptably high. A new report by the National Employment Law Project shows long-term unemployment remains higher than during any other downturn since the Great Depression, with 4.1 million job-seekers, or 36.1 percent of all the unemployed, remaining out of work for six months or more.
And the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the failure to renew UI could cost our economy 310,000 jobs in 2014.
Over the years, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that extending UI is among the most cost-effective programs for reducing unemployment and stimulating the economy.
Today, the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported: “The premature turn towards budget austerity since 2010 has been a drag on economic growth and job creation. Extending EUC would help offset that drag as well as reduce hardship among jobless workers and their families. In contrast, letting EUC expire would increase hardship and cost the economy jobs.”