Senator Shaheen Floor Statement Urging the Extension of Unemployment Benefits, October 20, 2009
Mr. President, I come to the floor for the third time in the last couple of weeks to urge passage of the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act. This will help the almost 2 million Americans who are in danger of losing their benefits. I am proud to join Senator JACK REED, and I thank him for his leadership in trying to get this done and working out legislation that can be supported by hopefully most of the Members of this Senate. For nearly 2 weeks, we have been working to pass an extension to help struggling families across the country.
The Senate bill we have introduced is a good bill, as Senator Reed has said. It extends unemployment benefits for up to 14 weeks in all 50 States and by an additional 6 weeks in States with the highest unemployment rates. The extensions are targeted: only unemployed workers who have already exhausted their benefits are eligible. That means that almost all jobless workers who use this extension will have been out of work for a year or longer. That is a very long time.
Unemployment insurance was created to provide workers with an income while they look for another job, but with unemployment almost 10 percent nationally, it has gotten harder to find work, not easier. The number of long-term unemployed--those without a job for 27 weeks or more--rose to 5.4 million in September. In my home State of New Hampshire, the number of long-term unemployed has more than tripled in the past year. So now we have reached a perfect storm with unemployment. There are more than six people for every job opening, and nearly 2 million Americans are about to run out of all benefits, the benefits they need to pay the rent, to pay their mortgage, to buy food, to pay for gas, to continue to look for a job.
The Presiding Officer and I both know that unemployment is spent on necessities and it is spent immediately. So when we extend benefits, we are not just helping the workers who have lost their jobs; we are helping small businesses that provide the goods and services unemployed workers need. In fact, economists say that dollar for dollar, extending unemployment benefits is one of the most cost-effective actions we can take to stimulate the economy.
So now, as this economy is trying to recover, as people are struggling to find work, it makes perfect sense that we would extend unemployment benefits for those people who need them. The American people are calling for the Senate to act, but some of our Members just aren't listening, and they have held up an extension for almost 2 weeks. They don't seem to want to move forward under any circumstances. My office is getting calls every day from people in New Hampshire and across the country, and they want to know why the Senate isn't acting quickly to pass an extension. Unfortunately, some Senators seem to be holding up the process to win political points, to delay our entire legislative agenda. They are playing politics while 7,000 workers a day run out of benefits, the benefits they need to put food on the table, to pay their bills, to keep our economy going.
This is not the time to play politics. This extension will help millions of Americans. It will help Americans in Democratic States, in Republican States, in Independent States, in purple States and red States and blue States.
It is important for us to pass this extension to help those Americans to stimulate our economy by getting money back into the hands of people who will spend it immediately.
I, again, urge all those Senators who have been standing in the way to stop playing politics and to pass this critical extension.