Approximately 25,000 in Washington state lost benefits as of December 28, an additional 37,600 will be cut off if Congress doesn’t act
Murray shares personal stories of out-of-work constituents in Washington state
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor to urge her colleagues to pass a renewal of critical unemployment insurance benefits. Senator Murray shared several stories she’s heard from constituents about what these critical benefits mean for them, and for their families, as they continue to look for work.
“Unfortunately for the over 1.4 million Americans who have lost their unemployment benefits – and the over 70,000 who continue to lose them each week – the Senate has found itself in an all too familiar place. Once again, Republicans refuse to be able to say to say “yes” - even to the most reasonable offers. It’s a problem we have seen too many times.”
“But this has been the Republican playbook. They say no for as long as they can. They play politics for as long as they can. They hold out and obstruct for as long as they can. Until the public pressure from angry Americans finally reaches a fever pitch. And then, when it’s far too late, hopefully they come to their senses.”
“Unfortunately, Republicans have now reverted once again to pure politics aimed - not at the vast majority of the American people who want to see this extension - but instead squarely at the most conservative audience possible. And nowhere is that more evident than in the pay-fors they have offered.”
“And while I don’t normally give advice to my friends on the other side of the aisle - I’d certainly suggest that they don’t stare into the eyes of someone who just had to take food stamps for the first time and explain that they can’t act until Obamacare is destroyed.”
“I especially hope they don’t think that making arguments about procedure, and amendments, and arcane rules that only those in DC pay any attention to is an excuse for walking away from 1.4 million Americans at a time when they just want results.”
“Unfortunately for the over 1.4 million Americans who have lost their unemployment benefits – and the over 70,000 who continue to lose them each week – the Senate has found itself in an all too familiar place. Once again, Republicans refuse to be able to say to say “yes” - even to the most reasonable offers. It’s a problem we have seen too many times.
“Over the course of the 16 day shutdown last October we tried time and again to find compromises to end that manufactured crisis, to return federal workers to their jobs, and to reopen federal parks and buildings. But for far too long Republicans refused to listen to the American people and embrace compromise. Instead they stood firmly in their partisan corner.
“It’s a pattern we also saw last year in our efforts to pass a budget. Back in March of last year, as every Senator here will remember, we spent a week here on the Senate floor—in an open process—debating and voting on amendment after amendment until the wee hours of the morning. And on March 23rd, we passed our budget after the House passed theirs the day earlier. And I thought the next step would be to start a conference—as quickly as possible. I thought this was a no-brainer.
“This is what the American people were expecting—the two sides to get in a room, work out our differences, and avoid another crisis. But every time we tried to start a budget conference—21 times total—a Senate Republican stood up and said no. They no longer wanted to go to conference. They no longer wanted to follow regular order. They wanted to obstruct.
“It took a government shutdown and a debt limit crisis—and a lot of pain for families and communities across the country—before we could get them in a room with us in a budget conference and agree to the deal the American people expected.
“But this has been the Republican playbook. They say no for as long as they can. They play politics for as long as they can. They hold out and obstruct for as long as they can. Until the public pressure from angry Americans finally reaches a fever pitch. And then, when it’s far too late, hopefully they come to their senses.
“Well, it’s getting to be far too late for every single American who has lost their unemployment benefits. In fact, as last week’s unemployment report showed, nearly half a million Americans recently gave up entirely. And those who haven’t given up spend every single day desperately working 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.
“In fact, I have received story after story from these men and women across my home state of Washington. One of those stories was from Gary who lives in Spokane, Washington. Gary wrote to me about his wife Linda and how at ‘56 years young’ with a degree in accounting and an MBA in finance, Linda is still unable to find work. After exhausting her unemployment benefits, Gary and Linda are now forced to live off his Social Security Disability Insurance. Gary and Linda are facing monthly medical expenses and rent over $1000 a month just to stay healthy and keep a roof over their heads. Unfortunately – Gary’s benefits cover just $900 of these expenses. So – with each passing day Congress fails to act, Gary and Linda will find themselves further and further behind. Gary concluded his note to me with a simple plea in all caps, that said ‘PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE HELP!’
“I also recently heard from a woman who was laid off from her job at a plant in Keyport, WA early last year. She told me, ‘This year, I have applied for over 200 jobs and in spite of a stellar resume, have only gotten 4 phone interviews. I have lowered my standards throughout the year and applied for jobs far below my pay grade to no avail…my husband and I have also had to claim bankruptcy…[and] I truly worry about losing my home and displacing my children.’
I also heard from Traci a former Executive Assistant with 20 years’ experience from Everett, Washington. After taking time off from work to care for her dying mother and a daughter suffering from bipolar disorder and drug addiction, Traci found herself without a job. After her mother’s passing, Traci also fell ill – making it difficult to look for work. And while Traci was receiving unemployment benefits, they were barely enough to cover the care her daughter required. Traci told me she now can’t afford food and has lost over 50 pounds. Traci still spends each day searching high and low for that one break. She told me, ‘I just need time for someone to give me a chance.’
“Time -- that is all these folks are asking for. They 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 WE need Republicans’ support to be able to do that. We are ready and willing to move forward. We have sought compromise. When Republicans wanted this extension to be paid for – even though it has been extended time and time again without pay-fors under Republican Congresses and Presidents – we went along. But that wasn’t enough.
“When Republicans signaled they didn’t want to pay for an extension by closing tax loopholes for the very wealthiest Americans – we again sought compromise. When we put forward savings from policies that have either been agreed to by both sides - or have been taken from proposals championed by Republicans. Republicans said it wasn’t good enough. When they asked for amendments we offered them amendments. They again said no.
“Unfortunately, Republicans have now reverted once again to pure politics aimed - not at the vast majority of the American people who want to see this extension - but instead squarely at the most conservative audience possible. And nowhere is that more evident than in the pay-fors they have offered.
“Whether it’s the minority leader’s amendment that predictably seeks to undercut health care reform. Or the Ayotte amendment which is a very disturbing signal, that after joining us in passing comprehensive immigration legislation, Republicans are now doing a complete 180 on immigration in an election year. In fact, M. President, with that amendment, Senate Republicans are now indicating that they are actually going to begin targeting US citizens – children at that - simply because they were born to undocumented workers. This is a shameful policy, and frankly, I’m shocked that we have gotten to this point.
“These policies aren’t going anywhere and Republicans know it. And in the end they amount to nothing more than delay tactics – all while American families hang in the balance. And make no mistake about it families across the country are teetering on the brink. In fact, nowhere is that more clear than the last, heartbreaking story I want to share which I received just yesterday.
“It was from a woman named Shiela who for the last 13 years has worked a middle management job at a national corporation in my state. She started her letter by saying, ‘I’ve never written to any government official, but I’m compelled to do so today.’ She then told me how she, her husband, and two children lived a fairly comfortable life. But that all changed last year when her employer decided to downsize and Sheila was laid off. Her husband, who works in real estate, was already struggling due to the weak market. And suddenly, Sheila’s family of four found themselves relying on just over $500 per week in unemployment assistance. Having graduated from college and subsequently business school - Sheila - like so many others who have found herself in need of these benefits wrote ‘never in a MILLION YEARS’ did she think she would be in this spot. She said, ‘I’ve worked for so many years, paid my taxes, did the right thing for others…and now I need help.’
In October, Sheila’s family lost their house and are now renting. They don’t know if their daughter will still qualify for the student loans she’s currently receiving. Sheila’s checking account is now overdrawn. Her car payments are past due. She has started getting notices from the utilities company. And as my staff spoke with her yesterday, she was just headed out the door to apply for food stamps.
“Because of Republicans’ refusal to work with us we will once again be going home to constituent like Sheila to explain why this extension hasn’t gotten done. I know I’ll be pointing out the fact that we have compromised time and time and time again to try to get something done. That we have all but begged Republicans from the start to work with us on this effort. But I can’t help but wonder how Republicans will explain their actions.
“And while I don’t normally give advice to my friends on the other side of the aisle - I’d certainly suggest that they don’t stare into the eyes of someone who just had to take food stamps for the first time and explain that they can’t act until Obamacare is destroyed.
“I’d hope that they don’t tell those who are about to lose their home that they can’t help until we can find a way to cut child care credits for U.S. children. I’d hope that they don’t tell American’s who spend their days applying for jobs that pay a fraction of what they had been making, that they are only willing to help if all of their political demands are met. And I especially hope they don’t think that making arguments about procedure, and amendments, and arcane rules that only those in DC pay any attention to is an excuse for walking away from 1.4 million Americans at a time when they just want results.
“But what I do hope is that the experiences they have – coming face-to-face with these families – will changes their tone when they return here. I hope that stories like the ones that I shared today will once again be the pressure Republicans have required over and over again to finally act. I hope that soon they will join us in passing our non-partisan, common sense bill. And that finally they’ll help in delivering the certainty and security these struggling Americans deserve.”