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Shaheen Calls Stall Tactics on Unemployment Benefits Extension Unacceptable, November 4, 2009

Madam President, I agree with my colleague from New Hampshire. We have too many people who are struggling right now in this recession. We have too many people who are unemployed, who need help until they can get back on their feet, find a new job, until the economy starts creating jobs again. That is why I am having so much trouble understanding why it has taken this body so long--4 weeks now--to extend unemployment benefits for those people who are losing their benefits before the end of this year, almost 2 million Americans, and we have been trying to pass an extension of unemployment for the last month.

I rise to speak in support of the Worker Home Ownership and Business Assistance Act, a bill that will extend unemployment benefits 14 weeks for unemployed workers in every State and for an additional 6 weeks in those States with over 8.5 percent unemployment. I am pleased that today the Senate has voted by an overwhelming majority, 97-to-1, to proceed to final passage of this legislation.

This broad, bipartisan vote acknowledges that unemployment affects every community in every State in every part of the country. In fact, this is the third vote we have had now to proceed to this bill. Every vote has passed overwhelmingly with a bipartisan vote. Despite those strong votes in support of an extension, opponents have put up obstacles at every turn to delay passage of the bill. As a result of these delay tactics, approximately 200,000 workers have lost their benefits in the last month.

Hopefully after 4 long weeks, the end is in sight. Soon people like Richard, one of my constitutents from Winchester, NH, who called my office yesterday, will get the help he desperately needs. Richard is a single father of three boys. He lost his job as a machinist at Greenfield Tap and Dye plant, a small manufacturing plant in the southwestern part of the State, more than a year ago. Since then he has been using his savings, his unemployment benefits to pay his mortgage, to buy food, to buy gas, and to pay for other necessities. Richard has been out looking for other manufacturing jobs, but no one is willing to hire him until this economy improves.

That is what the Senate has been working on. I disagree respectfully with my colleague from New Hampshire. Much of the effort we have expended in the Senate has been to support the economy so it does improve, so we can create jobs again.

We are on the cusp of finally passing this legislation to help Richard and his family and millions of other jobless Americans whose benefits will run out, to help them get through the holidays. As I have said many times, when we extend unemployment, we are not only helping those workers whose benefits have been exhausted, we are helping small businesses that provide the goods and services the unemployed are going to need. They are going to go out and spend those unemployment checks on those goods and services so that for every $1 we spend on unemployment, it turns over $1.61 in the economy. 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 checks arrive. Economists say that dollar for dollar, extending unemployment benefits is one of the most cost-effective actions we can take to stimulate the economy.

Passing this extension is the right choice for unemployed workers and for communities. I look forward to passing this extension for Richard and for the millions of Americans who are counting on us to act.