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Senator Shaheen Floor Statement on Extending Unemployment Benefits, October 27, 2009

Mr. President, I thank Senator Baucus for his very kind remarks and for his leadership to do something to help those workers who are unemployed across this country who are losing their benefits and don't know where to turn.


 As Senator Baucus has said, the Senate is about to vote on a motion to advance the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act. I am disappointed that we still haven't been able to pass this extension, but this evening we can vote to overcome a procedural hurdle and take an important step forward.


As Senator Baucus has said, this is critical legislation that will help nearly 2 million jobless Americans who are about to have the safety net pulled out from under them. The bill provides 14 additional weeks of unemployment insurance to jobless workers in all 50 States, and in those States where unemployment is the highest, they would receive an additional 6 weeks.


For 3 weeks, this critical legislation has been delayed for nothing more than political reasons. In that time, more than 100,000 Americans have exhausted their unemployment benefits. The American people should be outraged about these delays. I hope today those in opposition will end their obstruction, will stop the political games, and will help us pass this bill to stimulate our economy and help those Americans who, through no fault of their own, can't find a job.


I am confident that when we finally get to the vote, this extension will garner the broad bipartisan support it deserves. That is because unemployment isn't a New England problem or a Montana problem or a southern problem. It isn't a Republican, an Independent, or a Democratic problem. It is a hardship that hits every community in every State in every part of our country.


I recently visited an unemployment office in Manchester, NH, and I heard from people who, despite their best efforts, are unable to find a job. They want to get back to work, but they face one of the worst job markets since the Great Depression. I want to share this afternoon a couple of stories I heard from unemployed workers and those who have called my office pleading for help.


Carry-Ann is a 39-year-old single mother from Concord. She wrote that she has been out of a job for more than a year, and she has been relying on unemployment to support her two teenagers and to pay the mortgage. Carry-Ann qualified for a job training program, and she has been training for a career in health care.


That is appropriate, given the other debate that is going on in this body.


She has been training for that career in health care because she knows that is a sector that needs workers. But if her unemployment runs out, she wrote, she will lose her home and she will have to relocate, which means she would not be able to finish her job training program and will lose the prospects of getting a good new job.


Carry-Ann isn't asking for a handout. She is trying to gain self-sufficiency for herself and for her family by getting educated and gaining the skills she needs to build a career. But she will be unable to do so unless we pass this extension.


Richard is a 43-year-old from Somersworth, NH, one town over from where I live in the southern part of the State. He explained that he has been looking for work for over a year. He has been using his unemployment benefits to support his family. Richard used to have a management job, and at interviews he has been told time after time that he is overqualified and he would not be considered. Employers think he will leave their job as soon as better opportunities open.


But Richard has a family to support today and his benefits are going to run out soon. He is like many Americans looking for work right now. If we do nothing, he could lose his credit, his car, and his home.


Extending unemployment benefits will help Richard and Carry-Ann and their families and tens of thousands of others like them across this country. It will help them weather this storm.


As I have said many times, when we extend unemployment, we are not just helping jobless workers, we are also helping the businesses that provide the goods and services that unemployed workers need. People collecting unemployment spend their benefits immediately on necessities to keep their families going, which means these dollars get into communities almost as soon as the check arrives.


Economists say, dollar for dollar, extending unemployment benefits is one of the most cost-effective actions we can take to stimulate the economy. Passing this extension of unemployment benefits is the right choice for unemployed workers and for our communities.


Mr. President, this extension is long overdue. We owe it to those Americans who are out of work to pass this extension.