SHAHEEN: EXTEND UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS IN ALL STATES

September 30, 2009

(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen led 16 Senate colleagues to call on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Ranking Member Charles Grassley to extend unemployment benefits to every state. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed unemployment insurance legislation that does not provide benefits to unemployed workers in all states.

"Unemployed workers face equally severe challenges no matter what state they live in, and they should be given the support they need," said Shaheen. "Extending unemployment benefits is a fundamental part of helping families make ends meet between jobs, and I urge my Senate colleagues to act quickly and fairly so that every unemployed American worker gets the support they need."

Last week, Shaheen co-sponsored the Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act (S.1647) to extend unemployment benefits to workers in all 50 states who are still looking for employment in this economic recession. Unemployment compensation was extended under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), but for many workers these benefits are set to expire at the end of September and for many more at the end of the year. Under the legislation passed by the House, only states with unemployment rates of 8.5% or higher would qualify for the extension. New Hampshire would not meet this threshold. Under the Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act, unemployment insurance benefits would be extended for workers in all states.

The full text of the letter to Reid, McConnell, Baucus and Grassley follows:

September 30, 2009

The Honorable Harry Reid                                                           

Majority Leader                                                                               

Capitol Building, S-221                                                                   

Washington, DC 20510                                                  

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Minority Leader

Capitol Building, S-230

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Max Baucus                                                        

Chairman                                                                                            

Committee on Finance                                                                 

219 Dirksen Senate Office Building                                          

Washington, DC 20510                                                  

The Honorable Charles Grassley

Ranking Member

Committee on Finance

219 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Grassley,

Hundreds of thousands of workers will run out of unemployment benefits by the end of September.  On September 22nd, to address this pending crisis, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3548, the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009, which will extend unemployment benefits by up to 13 weeks.

However, H.R. 3548 limits this extension of benefits to only those workers in states where the unemployment rate is a three month average of 8.5 percent, or a 13?week insured unemployment rate above 6 percent.  These criteria exclude hundreds of thousands of jobless workers in 23 states: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming. 

The challenges faced by unemployed workers in these excluded states are equally severe and we strongly urge the Senate Finance Committee to craft legislation that extends unemployment benefits equitably, to all workers, regardless of their state. 

Sincerely,

Jeanne Shaheen

Daniel Akaka

Mark Begich

Michael Bennet

Jeff Bingaman

Christopher Dodd

Byron Dorgan

Al Franken

Daniel Inouye

Ted Kaufman

Amy Klobuchar

Patrick Leahy

Joseph Lieberman

Barbara Mikulski

Bernard Sanders

Mark Udall

Tom Udall

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