(Washington, D.C.) –Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) stressed the critical need to extend unemployment benefits for struggling families in a statement and questions submitted for a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing she attended entitled, “Tales from the Unemployment Line: Barriers Facing the Long-Term Unemployed.” With over 310,000 unemployed workers in Washington state, desperately fighting to find a way back into the workforce, Senator Murray strongly reiterated her commitment to making sure the long-term unemployed have the support, skills, and resources they need to get back on the job and give back to their communities.
“I have heard from so many workers across Washington state—and I know they aren’t looking for a hand-out, they just want their government to be there for them the way it was there for generations of workers before them,” wrote Senator Murray. “They are just looking for a hand up—some support so they can keep food on their families’ tables while looking for work, and the resources and tools they need to skill-up, train-up, and get back on the job.”
Federal unemployment programs will begin to expire at the end of this year. Unless Congress acts to extend these vital benefits, approximately 100,000 Washington residents and more than two million Americans will be cut off from federal unemployment compensation by February 2012. This week Senator Murray put out a call for Washington residents to submit their stories about unemployment insurance and how inaction would most impact their lives.
In questions submitted for the record, Senator Murray expressed the need to invest in our workers and the positive impact it will have both in the short and long-run. In a recent report, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) wrote that households receiving unemployment benefits spend their benefits quickly—making this program a timely and cost-effective tool in spurring the demand for goods and services in the economy.
Senator Murray also stressed the importance of access to education and training resources for the long-term unemployed in their efforts to sharpen skills or prepare for a new career. When the economy is struggling to add new, quality jobs, many turn to education and training programs to brush up on their skills or acquire new ones for a different industry or occupation.
The full text of Senator Murray’s submitted opening statement follows:
“The middle class in America is in crisis right now. Families across America are struggling to stay in their homes, put food on their tables, and buy clothing for their children. Millions of workers across the country are unemployed—and are desperately fighting to find a way back into the workforce.
“Many of these men and women lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The companies they worked for closed down or outsourced their labor or the skills they spent years acquiring became less relevant in this quickly-changing economy. These workers didn’t cause the economic collapse—but they are the ones bearing the brunt of it.
“I have heard from so many of them across Washington state—and I know they aren’t looking for a hand-out, they just want their government to be there for them the way it was there for generations of workers before them. They are just looking for a hand up—some support so they can keep food on their families’ tables while looking for work, and the resources and tools they need to skill-up, train-up, and get back on the job.
“And nobody needs this support more right now than the long-term unemployed—who in this current economic turmoil make up 43% of the unemployed in America. And who face a steeper and steeper climb back into a career with every additional month they spend out of work.
“So I really appreciate the Chairman holding this hearing to discuss this important issue and give a voice to the long-term unemployed. And I am absolutely committed to working with all of my colleagues to extend unemployment insurance—and to keep working to give the long-term unemployed the skills and resources they need to get back on the job and give back to their communities.”