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Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Contact: Murray Press Office (202) 224-2834
Murray Pushes to Maintain Unemployment Benefits for Middle Class Families
Benefits for roughly 100,000 Washington state families would start to expire at the end of the year
Murray shares stories from constituents from Bothell, Bellevue, Maple Valley, and Olalla, WA who depend on this support
Murray releases map http://murray.senate.gov/public/?p=unemployment-insurance with county-by-county impact on Washington families if Congress doesn't maintain support
Watch video of speech at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/event/199396
(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor to urge her colleagues to maintain vital unemployment insurance for families who count on the support while they fight to get back on the job in this tough economy. In her speech, Senator Murray shared stories http://www.youtube.com/watch'v=32sEtaGGTd8 sent to her from Washington state constituents about the impact losing unemployment insurance would have on middle-class families like theirs. Unless Congress acts, federal emergency unemployment programs will begin to expire at the end of this year.
Key excerpts from Murray's speech today:
"This should be an easy issue: unemployment benefits provide a lifeline for millions of families--and it would simply be wrong to cut this support off while the economy continues to struggle and so many workers are having difficulty finding work."
"...millions of Americans are unemployed today not because they don't want to work, and not because they don't have valuable skills, but simply because they've found themselves in an economy that isn't creating jobs as quickly as we need it to. These unemployed workers are desperate to get back on the job. And unemployment benefits make all the difference for them and their families while they scour the want ads, pound the pavement, and send out resume after resume."
"These workers aren't looking for a hand-out. They don't want to be a burden. But they need support while they work to get back on their feet and back on the job."
"I urge my colleagues to stand with me as the holidays approach to maintain the unemployment insurance benefits so many families are counting on. And to keep working to cut taxes for the middle class, get our economy moving once again, and our country back to work."
Yesterday, Senator Murray launched an interactive map http://murray.senate.gov/public/?p=unemployment-insurance on her website to highlight the potential county-by-county impact on Washington families if Congress fails to maintain federal emergency unemployment compensation/benefits into next year.
The full text of Senator Murray's floor speech follows:
"M. President--there are no more important issues for middle class families across America than jobs and the economy. This is what they want their elected officials to be focused on--and it's exactly what I think we ought to be working on every day.
"That's why I've come to the Senate floor again and again to urge my Republican colleagues to stop blocking our attempts to extend and expand the middle class tax cut so many families are counting on. And it's why I come to the floor once again today to discuss the urgent need to maintain federal unemployment benefits for middle class families across the country.
"M. President--this should be an easy issue: unemployment benefits provide a lifeline for millions of families--and it would simply be wrong to cut this support off while the economy continues to struggle and so many workers are having difficulty finding work.
"Right now, there are more than four unemployed workers for every single open job. If every opening was filled tomorrow, we would still have more than 10 million workers across the country without a job to even apply for.
"Additionally, nearly half of all unemployed workers have been out of a job for six months or longer--which is higher than we've seen for more than 60 years.
"So millions of Americans are unemployed today not because they don't want to work --and not because they don't have valuable skills--but simply because they've found themselves in an economy that isn't creating jobs as quickly as we need it to.
"These unemployed workers are desperate to get back on the job. And unemployment benefits make all the difference for them and their families while they scour the want ads, pound the pavement, and send out resume after resume.
"M. President--I recently sent a letter to my constituents asking for their stories about what these benefits mean to them and their families. And the response was unbelievable.
"Within just a few days I received hundreds of e-mails. People sent videos--some people sent pictures of their families. And I received story after story from workers and families from across my home state of Washington who are fighting to make ends meet in this tough economy--and who can't afford to have the rug pulled out from underneath them.
"One story came from Vicki, from Maple Valley, Washington - an unemployed single mom who lost her apartment and told me she now has to share a room with her son in a relative's home.
"Vicki told me she's made every effort--going to interviews and sending out her resume to hundreds of employers--but is still unable to find work.
"She understands that in this economy, finding a job won't be easy--but she's going to keep trying--and the support she's received from unemployment benefits has kept her and her family afloat and made all the difference.
"She said the benefits have allowed her to put food on the table for her family, and gas in her car so she can get to job interviews.
"Vicki told me, 'if I lose my unemployment benefits, I don't know what I can do to provide for my son.'
"And she is certainly not alone.
"I've also heard from older Americans like Judy, a grandmother of five from Bothell, Washington. Judy told me she'd been working for 47 years before being laid off from her teaching job in 2009.
"She said that over the last twelve years she's worked to teach adults the skills they need to move into jobs as bookkeepers, receptionists, and schedulers. But in this economy--although she is an expert in this area--even she can't find a job in those fields.
"Judy wrote to me, saying, 'I want to work, but nobody will hire older citizens no matter how much experience they have. I started looking for jobs at the pay level I was at when I was laid off--but after being unemployed for two years, I am even looking at jobs for less than half that. Still, I'm told that my experience does not match their requirements.'
"M. President, for Judy, unemployment benefits are not the solution--a job is what she wants-- but they provided her with some critical support while looking for that last job before she can retire.
I also heard from Sheila, from Bellevue, Washington. Like Judy, she is close to retirement--but she was laid off last year from an engineering technician job she loved--and now she is desperate to get back to work.
"After sending out over 500 resumes since then, she's only had four interviews.
"In her e-mail to me, Sheila wrote 'I was devastated when I was laid off. I now look for work seven days a week. I have worked hard my whole life and don't want everything I've worked for to disappear.'
"And she told that's what could happen if her unemployment benefits run out.
"Finally, M. President, I received a video message from Scott in Olalla, Washington. http://www.youtube.com/watch'v=32sEtaGGTd8
"Scott told me that after working at the same company for 20 years, he was laid off in March and filed his first unemployment claim in the thirty-plus years he has been in the workforce.
"He said he always thought unemployment insurance was for other people--and never thought he would be the one collecting.
"Now, he calls it a godsend for him and his family.
"In his video, Scott told me about the uncertainty his family would face if his benefits expired before he could get back on the job.
"If this happened, Scott said 'I can't imagine what it would do to my family to lose our home. We spend our money wisely. We live well within our means. But if we lost our home we would be just another statistic. The last thing I want to do is to explain to my wife and my daughter that we have to leave our home.'
"And that's exactly what he said would happen if he loses his unemployment benefits in this tough economy.
"M. President, these are just a few of the stories I've received--but there are so many just like theirs. Millions of people across America--including roughly 100,000 in my home state of Washington--stand to lose the benefits they count on if Congress doesn't act by the end of the year
"These workers aren't looking for a hand-out. They don't want to be a burden. But they need support while they work to get back on their feet and back on the job.
"And M. President--in this struggling economy, maintaining these benefits is truly critical.
"The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said maintaining unemployment benefits is one of the most effective policy tools we have to boost the economy and get money in the pockets of consumers.
"And if they were cut off, it wouldn't just be devastating for the families who count on this support--it would also hurt small businesses and communities to have billions of dollars pulled away from consumers who spend it every month on food, rent, and clothing.
"So M. President, we can't afford to allow this lifeline to be cut off. Our great country has always been a place that stands with our middle class families when times are tough--and that gives them the support they need to get back on their feet, back on the job, and contributing to their communities once again.
"So I urge my colleagues to stand with me as the holidays approach to maintain the unemployment insurance benefits so many families are counting on. And to keep working to cut taxes for the middle class, get our economy moving once again, and out our country back to work.
"And M. President--on this last point, before I finish--I want to join the Majority Leader and so many others in calling on Republicans to stop blocking their own bill and allow it to be brought up for an up-or-down vote.
"We know the Republican bill is going to fail. It's bad policy and many in their own caucus oppose it.
"This bill takes some of the policies we are fighting for to support the middle class--including unemployment benefits--waters them down--and then adds a whole bunch of Tea Party red meat to attract the Republican support they needed to get it passed in the House.
"I am focused on delivering the tax cut that middle class families need and deserve, so I am going to vote against the Republican bill if it is allowed to come up.
"But I can't believe that Republicans are preventing us from taking a vote on their own bill, and then not allowing us to come together to get to the bipartisan deal the American people expect.
"Thank you M. President, I yield the floor."