FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 5, 2013
CONTACT: Emma Stieglitz, emmaS@berlinrosen.com, (646) 200-5307
Statement of Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project, after today's Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing on renewing federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation:
"With the U.S. House of Representatives scheduled to adjourn for the holiday recess at the end of next week, I was pleased to testify today at a special hearing called by Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on the looming expiration of federal unemployment insurance. If Congress fails to renew the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, federal jobless benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed jobseekers will abruptly end three days after Christmas. By July 1st of next year, two million more will have no federal aid when their regular state benefits end.
"Millions of jobless workers are facing severe hardship, even homelessness in many cases, if Congress allows the EUC program to expire. The value of the emergency benefits program, and the urgent need to maintain it in 2014—for workers, their families and the economy—was evident in the testimony of today's worker witnesses, whose stories clearly struck the hearts and consciences of the House Members who were present.
"It's hard to imagine that anyone hearing today's witnesses would doubt the sincere desire of the long-term unemployed to get back to work, their diligence in trying to find jobs, the crucial importance EUC benefits play in making it possible for them to get by while looking for work, and the urgent need for Congress to act—before the recess—to renew this vital program. At a minimum, the Committee on Way and Means should convene a full hearing, with bi-partisan participation, to inform all members of Congress of what's at stake in the cavalier and callous refusal to consider renewing federal unemployment insurance, which sustains millions of jobless workers, keeping many of them from descending into poverty.
"Instead, we were dismayed to read earlier today that House Ways and Means chairman Rep. Dave Camp proposes to let the federal EUC program expire:
'It was meant to be temporary, and we need to let the program expire,' House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) said on Wednesday. 'This has gone on longer than any emergency benefits in the history of the country.' (Washington Wire blog on the Wall Street Journal website)
"The crisis of long-term unemployment has endured longer than during any other period of emergency benefits in our history—and it is the extraordinary depth and duration of this crisis that demands preserving the core federal policy designed to respond to it. By nearly every key measure, neither long-term unemployment nor the overall job market have improved much since the program was last renewed, in bipartisan legislation that Representative Camp helped craft and champion.
"It is surprising that today's circumstances, which are not appreciably better than at the end of 2012, have not led Representative Camp and his colleagues to embrace a renewal of a program so vital to so many of their constituents and to the nation overall. Perhaps they should listen to what one of Mr. Camp's constituents wrote us before today's hearing. Linda Sandefur, a 49-year-old jobseeker from Brant, Michigan, who faces the prospect of having her federal benefits cut off December 28, said:
'Though I would vastly prefer to be working, I ask that Federal Unemployment Insurance (EUC) be continued. I worked for eight years in various capacities at Michigan Works!, a workforce development agency. I worked as a Career Manager, Disability Navigator and Employment Services Advisor. My most recent position ended in June of this year due to funding not being renewed. I have a Bachelor's degree and a Master's to go with years of work experience, but the job search has been very discouraging. Interviews have been few and far between.
'Now I'm told that Congress may let the federal EUC benefits stop completely at the end of December, which would leave me and more than a million other unemployed jobseekers out in the cold. Without federal unemployment benefits I will very likely lose my home.
'Here in Michigan the unemployment rate is back up to 9 percent and the state will again offer Tier 4 EUC benefits beginning next week. But if Congress shuts down EUC on December 28, we'll go from providing up to 47 weeks of federal benefits to zero weeks. My Congressman, Dave Camp, and the entire Michigan delegation, Republicans and Democrats, should come together to ensure the renewal of federal EUC for 2014. It's just the right thing to do.'
"It was a privilege to join three long-term unemployed workers in testifying today in support of renewing the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. Though their stories were their own, they echoed the crisis facing millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, are trying to get back to work, and desperately need the modest support EUC provides in the meantime. We can only hope that all members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, will open their heads and their hearts to their constituents facing an end of benefits, and act to renew the EUC program before it expires this month."
The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org.