12.05.12

U.S. Reps. Lee and Peters lead the effort to protect our nation’s most vulnerable families

Contact:  Katherine Jolly, 510-763-0370

Lee-Peters letter calling for full extension of Unemployment Insurance in Fiscal Cliff debate earns support of 78 members of Congress

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday afternoon, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Congressman Gary Peters (D-MI) sent a letter to House and Senate Leadership requesting a full and robust extension of the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program. The current program is set to expire at the end of the year, stripping two million workers of their unemployment insurance benefits.

By working together, Congresswoman Lee and Congressman Peters secured the support of 78 members of Congress in their letter.

“Unemployment benefits are the most effective fiscal policy to stimulate the economy and get people back to work,” said Congresswoman Lee.  “In fact, every one dollar spent on unemployment insurance generates $1.55 in economic activity.  With millions of Americans still struggling to recover from the recession, we cannot afford to strip one of the only remaining lifelines for workers that are eager to get back to work.”

“During this holiday season, Congress needs to stand up for families that are facing serious economic challenges,” said Congressman Gary Peters. “Unemployment insurance is a crucial lifeline that many American families rely on to get through tough times and we can't allow them to be used as a bargaining chip in the fiscal cliff debate. I’m proud to stand with Congresswoman Lee and more than 75 members of Congress that are fighting to protect Unemployment Insurance.”

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Below is the full text of the Lee-Peters letter. You can also view a signed copy by clicking here.

Dear House and Senate Leaders,

While our economy is showing signs of recovery with the addition of 171,000 jobs in October 2012 and the unemployment under 8%, over 12 million Americans remain unemployed.  The long-term unemployment rate – the share of unemployed workers who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer – was over 40% throughout the entirety of 2010 and 2011, and persists at a rate of 40.6% in October 2012.  This is an unprecedented level of long-term unemployment; the previous peak, in June 1983, was just 26%. 

Unemployment benefits are a proven lifeline to families that they rely on to help pay for necessities such as rent, groceries, and utilities.  Expansions to the unemployment insurance program enacted in the Recovery Act and subsequent legislation in 2009 and 2010 lifted over 3.2 million Americans out of poverty in 2010, and 2.3 million in 2011 including over 600,000 children.

As House and Senate leadership negotiate legislation addressing expiring tax provisions, cuts mandated by sequestration, and the Medicare sustainable growth rate, we urge you to include a robust extension of federal unemployment benefits for American workers.  Given the unprecedented levels of long-term unemployment our nation currently faces, a full extension of unemployment benefits through 2013 should represent the minimum acceptable extension in any year-end compromise legislation.  Should Congress fail to act by the last week of December, over two million workers will immediately lose their federal unemployment benefits.

Disconcertingly, federal unemployment benefits were already reduced earlier this year; the total cap on combined state and federal unemployment benefits was cut from 99 weeks at the beginning of 2012 to 73 weeks currently. Additionally, the need to extend federal unemployment benefits is amplified by unprecedented cuts to both the amount and duration of unemployment benefits made by a number of states.

We also have serious concerns about proposals that divert unemployment funds from direct recipients or that subject recipients to new drug testing and education requirements which create barriers for our nation’s unemployed.  We encourage House and Senate leadership to ensure that states use their unemployment funds, as they have historically done, to compensate recipients and not for any other purpose, and reject efforts to create new barriers for eligible individuals seeking unemployment benefits.

Reducing federal unemployment benefits would plunge hundreds of thousands of Americans into poverty and jeopardize our nation’s economic recovery.  With millions of American workers relying on these benefits to make ends meet as our nation’s economic recovery continues to take hold, now is not the time to roll back this critical lifeline.  We urge you to come together and ensure that unemployment benefits remain available to American workers when they need it most.

                                                            Sincerely,

Barbara Lee

Gary Peters

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