2002-09-28 / Community

Emergency Unemployment Act Introduced

Emergency Unemployment Act Introduced

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Senator Max Baucus and others have introduced legislation that would extend unemployment benefits for America’s workers.

At a Capitol Hill press conference the Senators, joined by laid-off workers, called for swift passage of this bill to help the more than 8 million American workers currently looking for a job.

"Extending unemployment insurance is not just the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do, and provides the stimulus our economy needs," Clinton said. "Extending unemployment insurance would put money into the hands of the very people who will turn right around and put it back into our economy. During the recession of the early 1990’s, Congress extended unemployment benefits five times – this year we’ve extended it only once; and once is not enough."

Clinton continued, "Yesterday, we heard even more discouraging economic news. For the first time in 8 years, the poverty rate increased by 1.3 million people. For families, that number increased by almost half a million. And for the first time since 1991, the median household income dropped by 2.2 percent. How much of a wake up call do we need?"

Over the past six months, the jobless rate has hovered around 6 percent, and long-term unemployment levels now exceed those reached in any recent recession. More than 8 million Americans are currently unemployed and nearly one in five of those workers have been unemployed for six months or more. Today, those 8 million people are competing for a mere 3.2 million jobs. With so many more out of work Americans than available jobs, by the end of this year, 2.2 million workers are expected to run out of their unemployment benefits.

Eight hundred thousand more workers are expected to exhaust their benefits in this recession than in the recession of the early 1990’s. Yet, in the 1990’s, President George H. W. Bush signed into law three benefit extensions – providing 33 weeks of benefits for high unemployment states at its peak. Under the program, nineteen states received 33 weeks and the rest received 26 weeks. Today, the economy is in the same trouble it was then.

Last March, Congress extended benefits for the first and only time during this recession. That is not enough. Under the temporary program, 48 states received 13 weeks of benefits, while just two states received 26 weeks. More than one million workers have already exhausted these benefits without finding a new job.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 2002 will revise and extend the temporary unemployment program to provide an additional 20 weeks of temporary extended benefits for "high unemployment " states (for a total of 33 weeks when combined with the March extension) until July 2002. The Act mirrors the benefits of the early 1990’s. Without immediate action, the temporary program will expire and extended benefits will run out in every state. We must help workers ensure their financial security during these difficult economic times.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 2002:

  1. Provides 20 additional weeks of extended benefits to high unemployment states; 13 weeks for all other states as done in the early 1990’s.
  2. Extends temporary extended benefits through July 1, 2003.
  3. Uses the same approach to defining "high unemployment" states as the programs in the early 1990’s.

Cosponsors of the legislation include Clinton, Kennedy, Daschle, Baucus, Carnahan, Wellstone, Rockefeller, Cantwell, Durbin, Biden, Gordon Smith, Schumer, Bayh, Bingaman, Kerry, Corzine, Boxer, Levin, Baucus, Sarbanes, Reed, Feinstein & Torricelli.

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