Since its creation in 1935, every American worker has paid, and continues to pay, into the unemployment insurance system. This insurance was designed to keep Americans afloat in the event of a job loss, so they can feed their families and pay the mortgage or rent while job searching. It’s a fundamental benefit that has been extended during every major recession our nation has faced. These extensions, known as the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, are temporary, designed to roll back once the economy recovers and workers find jobs. It’s recognized by economists as one of the most cost effective ways to increase demand and spur job creation in a weak economy, making an immediate impact on the ground in the lives of families and individuals facing hardship.
In 2008, as the economy plunged into the Great Recession, millions were put out of work. Today, while the economy has recovered significantly, there are still nearly three job seekers for every available job in the U.S. Long term unemployment rates remain at levels not seen since the Great Depression. Yet, congressional Republicans are refusing to keep this important program going in the near term. At the end of the year, an estimated 1.3 million Americans still struggling to find work were left out in the cold when their benefits expired.
Every week during the first six months of 2014, an additional 72,000 people will exhaust their unemployment. In Virginia alone, that adds up to 70,000 people who will struggle mightily just to afford basic groceries, rent, and the heating bill.
EUC funds act not only as vital lifelines that keep families afloat during challenging times; they pour money back into local economies, stimulating economic activity and job creation. By replacing a portion of an unemployed worker’s income, EUC funds inject these dollars back into the economy, helping stave off further layoffs.
While the Senate is passing an extension this week, House GOP leaders currently have no plans to bring the issue to a vote. With income inequality at an all-time high in the U.S. and eleven million people still out of work, these unemployment benefits should be extended and I will continue to press my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to act in the American peoples’ best interest.