WASHINGTON, April 4 -- Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich. (9th CD), issued the following news release:
Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) today made the following statement on the House floor in support of extending emergency unemployment benefits, which would immediately benefit more than 2.8 million Americans:
"Mr. Speaker, two months ago a number of us invited unemployed workers to be our guests at the President's State of the Union Address. We wanted to give a voice to the over 2 million Americans who have now had their unemployment benefits cut off.
"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 Maisano from St. Clair Shores, Michigan. Josie proudly told us she had worked since she was a teenager. But now at age 60 she couldn't find a job. Her unemployment benefits were helping to keep her head above water as she searched for work. But when her benefits were cut off, she fell behind on her mortgage payments, struggled to keep the power on, and worries every day about becoming homeless.
"Josie and over 2 million Americans just like her are desperately waiting to see if Congress will finally act to help those seeking jobs. The good news is the Senate is expected to take that critical step on Monday by passing bipartisan legislation to retroactively extend the federal unemployment insurance program through May.
"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 Senate unemployment extension is fully paid for with bipartisan offsets. End of excuse.
"We have heard that any legislation extending unemployment benefits must also create jobs. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that continuing emergency unemployment benefits would create 200,000 jobs by raising consumer demand. End of excuse.
"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 $300 a week. Even at that modest level, unemployment benefits have lifted 11 million Americans out of poverty since 2008, according to the Census Bureau.
"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.
"The bipartisan Senate bill would restore this vital lifeline to nearly 2.8 million Americans, including Josie Maisano and 106,000 other job seekers in my home state of Michigan.
"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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