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ECONOMY: Murray Pushes for Continued Support for Long-Term Unemployed in Washington State

Nov 30 2010

Critical program expires today; Murray tells story of Snohomish County family that depends on the expiring support

Watch video of speech

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor to urge her colleagues to reauthorize the critical unemployment insurance program through the end of 2011. Unemployment insurance has been extended since the recession began, but is now set to expire unless Congress acts. This would cut off families in Washington state and across the country at a time when the national unemployment rate stands at 9.6% and there are five job seekers for every open position. 

Murray is a co-sponsor of the recently introduced Unemployment Insurance Stabilization Act of 2010, which would reauthorize the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefits through the end of next year. Senate Democrats asked for unanimous consent to pass this bill today, but it was blocked by Senate Republicans.

Key excerpts from today’s speech: 

“We can’t sit on the sidelines while more families are pushed into bankruptcy, more people lose their health care, and more homes are foreclosed on.  We can’t stand by and watch as working families that have already been pushed to the brink by a financial crisis they didn’t create, are shoved over the edge through no fault of their own.”

“It’s wrong, and it doesn’t make sense! It doesn’t make sense to pull billions of dollars out of the economy.  It doesn’t make sense to remove purchasing power from so many families. It doesn’t make sense to lose the multiplier effect of these funds that keep millions of workers on the job.  And it certainly doesn’t make sense to do all this right before the holidays!”

“I am going to keep fighting to maintain these emergency unemployment compensation benefits through next year. For Judy Curtis’ family, for thousands of families like them across Washington state, and for millions across America.” 

“These programs are not meant to continue indefinitely, but until our economy gets back on track, it would be devastating to cut families off from this critical lifeline.”

In her speech, Murray also talked about the positive effect that the unemployment insurance program has on the economy. In 2009, the unemployment insurance system injected $4 billion in benefits into Washington state’s economy, generating $6.5 billion in economic activity, according to data from the Washington State Employment Security Department and the U.S Department of Labor. Washington state 2009 economic impact information by county available upon request. 

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:

“Madam President, I come to the floor today to speak on behalf of thousands of Washington state families who stand to lose everything they have because Republican Senators continue to put politics ahead of policy.

“Men and women from Seattle to Spokane who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Who get up every single day, scour the want ads, send out their resumes, and desperately try to find work in an economy that continues to struggle.

“These workers don’t want to be where they are today.

“They would like nothing more than to be back on the job, doing what many of them have been doing for years: working hard, adding value to their companies, contributing to their communities, and providing for their families.

“But while they struggle to find work, many of them depend on the unemployment insurance programs we put in place to keep their heads above water.

“This support has allowed these families to put food on the table, stay in their homes, and pay for their children’s health care.

“These programs aren’t extravagant, but for so many workers they have made all the difference.

“Workers like Judy Curtis, a woman from Mill Creek, Washington who wrote to my office urging me to do everything I could to reauthorize this program.

“Judy is a single mother who has worked hard her whole life to support herself and her developmentally disabled son, Sean.

“She told me she has been laid off twice since the downturn began and has been looking for a new job every day—but without any luck.

“Judy’s unemployment insurance is going to be cut off on January 15th unless we reauthorize itand she doesn’t know how she and her son are going to make it if that happens.

“So Madam President, it is because of stories like hers that I am so disappointed we are once again throwing families into a state of uncertainty and turmoil by allowing these emergency unemployment programs to expire today. 

“It simply doesn’t make sense.

“Our economy still has a long way to go on the road to recovery.

“There are five job seekers for every open position.

“The unemployment rate stands at 9.6%.

“And Senate Republicans really think that now is a good time to cut families off from the support they depend on??

“Madam President, we can’t allow this to happen.

“We can’t sit on the sidelines while more families are pushed into bankruptcy,  more people lose their health care,  and more homes are foreclosed on.

“We can’t stand by and watch as working families that have already been pushed to the brink by a financial crisis they didn’t create, are shoved over the edge through no fault of their own.

“It’s wrong—and it doesn’t make sense!

“It doesn’t make sense to pull billions of dollars out of the economy.

“It doesn’t make sense to remove purchasing power from so many families.

“It doesn’t make sense to lose the multiplier effect of these funds that keep millions of workers on the job.

“And it certainly doesn’t make sense to do all this right before the holidays!!

“And I have to say, Madam President, I find it very interesting that some of the Senators who oppose extending this support for middle class families are the very same ones who have no problem extending the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans that will cost us almost a trillion dollars!

“So for these Republicans, this is not about the deficit. It’s not about what’s best for the economy, it’s certainly not about good policy—it’s about politics—plain and simple.

“So Madam President, I am going to keep fighting to maintain these emergency unemployment compensation benefits through next year.

“For Judy Curtis’ family, for thousands of families like them across Washington state—and for millions across America.

“These programs are not meant to continue indefinitely, but until our economy gets back on track, it would be devastating to cut families off from this critical lifeline.

“Thank you, I yield the floor.”