Representatives Lee and Scott, In Letter, Request Meeting with Boehner, Cantor, Camp to Discuss Bill to Give Emergency Benefits to Long-Term Unemployed Workers

March 9, 2011

Media Contact: Joel Payne, (202) 225-2661

Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp requesting a meeting to discuss H.R. 589, a bill to extend emergency benefits to long-term unemployed workers. Representatives Lee and Scott introduced the legislation last month, and they want to meet with House Republican leadership to discuss options to address the costs of the bill. The legislation currently has 72 additional House co-sponsors.

H.R. 589 would provide 14 weeks of emergency unemployment benefits to workers who have exhausted all their benefits and are still unemployed. Many of these long-term unemployed workers are relying on this assistance to support their families, make ends meet and contribute to our economy.

Full Text of the Letter Below:

Dear Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor, and Chairman Camp:

Once again we want to express our deep concern for the plight of millions of long-term unemployed workers across the country. Last week’s unemployment numbers reflect the harsh reality that still exists – while the economy is moving in the right direction, too many workers are still looking for jobs. For every available job opening, there are 4.7 unemployed workers. And many of those workers have been unemployed for a year or longer.

The unemployment rate does not discriminate – the challenges that our constituents face in our districts are just as difficult as the challenges that your constituents are facing in western Ohio, central Virginia and central Michigan. We all have a shared obligation to help our neediest and most vulnerable populations in their hour of greatest need.

The letter we sent you last month requested your assistance in extending emergency benefits for long-term unemployed workers who had exhausted their eligibility. In addition, we requested that these benefits be considered under the emergency designation of PAYGO spending rules, a provision that would exempt emergencies from these rules.

We are disappointed that you disagreed with our belief that this is a true state of emergency for these workers. As we outlined in our previous letter, we believe there is a strong moral and economic case to extend these emergency benefits. Economic experts believe that unemployment benefits provide a stimulative impact to our economy by helping to drive consumer spending. So not only is providing these benefits the right thing to do, but it is sound economic policy.

To be clear, we maintain our position that this legislation deserves to be exempt from PAYGO spending rules under the aforementioned emergency designation, but we are committed to exhausting every possible avenue to pass this bill.

Adding an additional 14 weeks to the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program is estimated to cost up to $16 billion. We want to work with you to identify how best to finance this legislation and ensure its swift passage.

We request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss alternative ways to address the costs associated with H.R. 589, The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act. We hope that you share our urgent desire to move forward on passing this legislation. There are dire consequences for millions of long-term unemployed workers who are fighting every day to make ends meet so they can support their families. It is time to get serious about taking care of our long-term unemployed workers who continue to suffer.

We look forward to your response and are hopeful that we can meet with you in the near future to discuss the importance of this bill and our plan to pass it.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Barbara Lee
Member of Congress

Robert C. Scott
Member of Congress

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