Unemployment extension clears hurdle in Senate

July 20, 2010

(Washington D.C.)- U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today announced that the Senate has cleared a major hurdle to extend federal unemployment compensation.  Final passage of the bill is expected this week, preserving a critical safety net for tens of thousands of New Hampshire residents and millions of out of work Americans nationwide. The bill will also retroactively restore compensation to workers whose unemployment insurance expired during nearly two months of obstruction.

"Unemployment insurance is essential for families struggling in this difficult economy, and is good for our communities who benefit from this money being spent immediately on groceries, gas, and at other small businesses," said Shaheen. "Unemployed workers desperately need this help, but more than that, they need a job.  I look forward to continuing to work on a small business job creation bill, which we are expected to take up next in the Senate, and I hope we are able to pass it quickly."

Shaheen has supported extending unemployment insurance since joining the Senate, and, in the fall, she worked to ensure that unemployment compensation was available to the hardest hit workers in every state. Prior to today's vote, she returned to the floor of the Senate and urged her colleagues to support the extension.

The full text of Shaheen's remarks as prepared for delivery follow:

Mr. President, I'd like to speak today about the critical need to extend unemployment insurance.  Across the nation, there are almost 15 million Americans out of work. 

Although we're making progress on our unemployment rate, it still stands at an elevated nine and a half percent.  We need to extend unemployment insurance immediately, before one more family is put on the streets and before one more child goes to bed hungry.

But this legislation is every bit as important to our economy as it is for those struggling to get by.  Almost seven million people, nearly half of all Americans collecting unemployment insurance, have been out of work for six months or longer - and they've run out of the insurance provided by their state.  These are the workers collecting federal unemployment insurance, which they are using to pay the rent, make a mortgage payment, and buy the groceries and gas they need to go out and look for their next job.

Sometimes the real people this legislation affects can be forgotten during the debate.  While members of this body stand and give economic lessons, there are honest, hard-working people who are suffering.

I recently heard from Jo Ellen in Canterbury, New Hampshire about the plight of the unemployed.  Jo Ellen was a high-ranking nurse with a graduate degree and a good job, until she was laid off to cut costs.  She is in her 60's and has been working her whole life.  Since being laid off, she has applied for dozens of jobs - from part-time to retail positions.  She has cut back on her professional experience on her resume so that she's not ruled out for being overqualified.  She always mentions that she is willing to accept any salary.  But none-the-less, she has not been called to interview.  Not once.

Jo Ellen wrote to me not only because her unemployment insurance will soon expire, but also because she is so troubled that she keeps hearing the politicians who voted against this extension say that people collecting unemployment are irresponsible or looking for a handout.  She's not looking for a handout - she's looking for a job.  And while we still face one of the most difficult job markets in history - where there are 5 applicants for every 1 job - we need to make sure people like Jo Ellen stay afloat. 

There are millions of people across this country just like Jo Ellen.  There are millions of people who need these benefits to prevent disaster. 

 In New Hampshire, twenty thousand people could see their unemployment insurance expire within the next 4 months if we don't act.  By supporting this legislation today, we can make sure that New Hampshire's unemployed workers receive 75 million dollars in essential federal assistance.  This money won't sit quietly in savings accounts; it will go to local grocery stores, pharmacies and other small businesses that need it most. 

In fact, conservative economist Mark Zandi, a former advisor to Senator McCain, has cited unemployment insurance as one of the three most effective uses of federal funding.  According to his analysis, every dollar we invest today will create a dollar and sixty-one cents in economic growth. 

These benefits will help Granite Staters and those across America continue to invest in their communities.  At a time like this, with our economy poised to turn the corner, this funding is critical to our future.  Quite simply, Mr. President, these are investments we can't afford not to make.

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