The U.S. Senate returned to work this week and shocked some by advancing a temporary extension of the same jobless benefits it allowed to expire on Dec. 28. But as various news outlets such as Politico and The New York Times report, the measure is nowhere close to passage and could face an even tougher battle in the more conservative House.
Americans should pressure their federal elected officials to set aside ideology and pass the bill. Be heartened by the fact that six Republicans helped Democrats break a filibuster to move the issue closer to a vote. One of the legislation’s sponsors is U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., which indicates this doesn’t have to be a partisan issue. It’s about helping the long-term unemployed — in blue, red and purple states — rebound and contribute to their local economies.
National and state jobs reports have certainly shown some improvement since the most recent recession officially began in December 2007, but as the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart below shows, the ratio between job openings and job applicants is still about 3 to 1.
If you doubt the need for this boost of support or think it’s just another bad example of welfare, read this report from The Washington Post. Reporter Brad Plumer offers seven compelling reasons why these benefits are necessary for the country to stay on the course toward a full, stable economic recovery. Long-term unemployment, which some define as lasting 27 weeks or more, is not a result of workers being unproductive. It’s a result of one of the worst recessions in modern U.S. history and technological advances that have made some jobs disappear.
Momentum is building. Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and 13 other top Democratic state executives sent a message to Congress on Wednesday. Here’s the text of their letter to U.S. Senate and House leadership:
Dear Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner and Democratic Leader Pelosi:
We write to urge you to extend federal unemployment benefits for millions of Americans by extending the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program. As you know, 1.3 million jobless workers, including 20,000 recent military veterans, experienced the end of their benefits on December 28th, and nearly another 1.9 million will lose their unemployment benefits over the first half of this year. In the past, Congress has extended unemployment benefits during similar economic downturns. Failure to extend it now would only halt our economic recovery and undo the progress that we have made since the height of the recent downturn. In fact, inaction would reduce economic growth by an estimated $38 billion and would eliminate approximately 310,000 jobs from the U.S. economy.
Congress should extend unemployment benefits, as many states continue to experience persistent levels of high unemployment. Unemployment insurance has been effective in providing stability to our states’ economies during times of uncertainty and weakness. Our country’s jobless population spends unemployment benefits on rent, groceries, and other key necessities for themselves and their families. Our businesses and local communities benefit from the increased spending, and in turn, the EUC program helps to increase economic activity. Thus, not only does the EUC program benefit the long-term unemployed, but it also helps to inject revenue into our local economies, which saves and creates critically needed jobs throughout our economy. For this reason, economists widely recognize that government spending on unemployment insurance benefits is one of the most effective tools for increasing economic activity in a period of persistently high unemployment.
As the economy continues to recover, it remains difficult for long term unemployed workers to find jobs — the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that for every job opening, there are 2.9 unemployed workers to fill it. Therefore, we ask you to extend the EUC program and continue this important safety net for millions of unemployed workers and families.
On the floor of the Senate Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., spoke about how 25,000 Washington residents have been affected by cuts in emergency federal jobless benefits. Watch her speech below: