October 02, 2009

(Washington, D.C.) - As our nation's unemployment rate today reached a 26-year high, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen called for a robust and fair solution to help the more than 15 million unemployed workers across the country. Next week, Shaheen plans to introduce an amendment that would offer a realistic extension, at least 13 weeks, of unemployment benefits to workers in all 50 states.  The Shaheen measure would offset the cost of extending unemployment by using TARP funds to support American workers.  Shaheen believes this money should be used to help Americans who are struggling to get back on their feet in this recession, not just the big banks that caused the financial crisis.  Shaheen intends to offer her amendment to legislation that will only offer 4 weeks of extended unemployment benefits to workers in 23 states, while the other 27 states would receive 17 weeks of extended unemployment benefits.

"Our unemployed workers are in crisis - their benefits are drying up and the job market continues to decline," said Shaheen.  "It is our responsibility to our workers and to our economy to make sure that our nation's unemployed can pay the mortgage and keep food on the table while they look for work.  With unemployment reaching record highs, four weeks of extended unemployment benefits simply won't cut it."

Shaheen's amendment would offer jobless workers in all 50 states at least 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits.  Jobless workers in states with the highest unemployment rates, more than 8.5 percent, would be eligible for a total of 17 weeks. 

The amendment would take a small portion of the taxpayer-funded TARP bailout and put that money back into the pockets of American workers. Specifically, Shaheen's proposal would redirect TARP interest and dividends received from banks to pay for the benefits.

"The economy seems to have turned around for big banks executives, but today's record unemployment rate proves that it hasn't yet turned around for millions of American workers who still can't find a job," added Shaheen.  "If we can bailout the big banks that got us into this financial mess, we should also offer sufficient help to the people hit hardest by this recession - our unemployed workers."

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