Levin Floor Statement on Extending Unemployment Benefits
|Targeted News Service|
"When these jobseekers told their stories, one by one, I thought to myself - this is America. These are folks who come from every walk of life, who have worked hard, and who have played by the rules in pursuit of the American dream.
"Now they have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and they are desperately seeking new employment. You can understand their complete bewilderment when uniformed people call them lazy. And you can feel their utter disbelief that their government has abandoned them.
"My guest for the State of the Union Address was
"Josie and over 2 million Americans just like her are desperately waiting to see if
"The question is whether this House also will act, or will it leave town, and leave America's jobseekers in the lurch. If every Member of this chamber will simply take a few minutes to talk with unemployed workers in their district, people like Josie, I have no doubt we will do the right thing and act.
But up to this point, action has been scant, while excuses have been plentiful.
"We have heard that an extension of unemployment benefits must be paid for, even though these emergency benefits have traditionally not been offset. The
"We have heard that any legislation extending unemployment benefits must also create jobs. The
"We have heard that extended unemployment benefits aren't needed anymore because the economy has recovered. The economy certainly has improved from the depths of the Great Recession, but we continue to have near record rates of long-term unemployment, and we have never cut off these benefits in the past with anything close to this level of long-term unemployment. End of excuse.
"We have heard that it's too late to help the unemployed because the federal UI program has been expired for too long. The Secretary of Labor, Governors, and state UI directors have all said they stand ready, willing and able to restore these critical benefits, as has been done after prior lapses in benefits. End of excuse.
"If we can get past the excuses, maybe we can focus on the facts. Anyone receiving an unemployment benefit must look for work, and they have ample reason to do so given that the average unemployment benefit is only
"The end of the federal emergency unemployment program in December has left only one out of every four jobseekers receiving unemployment benefits - the lowest coverage rate in over 50 years.
"Someone recently asked me if this issue is personal to me. It is. When you hear the unemployed tell their stories, when you see the anguish in their faces, and when you know how hard they are struggling to find work, it is impossible to not take it personally. These are our friends, our neighbors, our fellow Americans. How can we give them the cold shoulder?
"We must act."
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