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UNEMPLOYMENT: Murray Continues to Push for Benefits Extension in Speech on Senate Floor

Oct 27 2009

Murray tells stories of unemployed Washingtonians who need additional support while they look for work. Extension would include up to 20 additional weeks of unemployment benefits for those who have exhausted their payments


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered a speech on the U.S. Senate floor on the need to pass an extension of Emergency Unemployment Insurance (UI) for thousands of Washington state residents who are out of work.

In her speech, Senator Murray told stories of some of the Washington state residents who have contacted her on the need for this extension. Murray spoke about Loretta, from Auburn, Washington and Patricia, from Renton, Washington—both of whom are unemployed and looking for work, but need some more time and support to get back on their feet. Senator Murray used these stories to demonstrate to her colleagues the urgent need to pass the extension.

Senator Murray’s speech came just hours before the Senate is expected to vote to end debate on this bill.

The Senate is currently considering extending unemployment benefits for those who have exhausted or will exhaust their payments for 14 weeks in every state, and an additional 6 weeks for states, including Washington state, that have been particularly impacted by unemployment. Senator Murray spoke about this critical issue last week as well.

Washington state estimates that by the end of the year up to 18,000 Washington state residents could qualify for an additional 20 weeks of unemployment if this bill passes. 

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:

“Mr. President, last week I spoke here about the urgent need to pass an extension of unemployment insurance that would help over 18,000 residents of my home state of Washington and millions of Americans across the country.

“I told the stories of three Washington state families who have lost their jobs in the most difficult economic time since the Great Depression, and who desperately need the support that an extension would give them to get back on their feet.

“Unfortunately, Mr. President, despite the hard work of many of my colleagues—this small measure of financial stability has been delayed to families across the country who need it most.
“Families who - right now - as we debate this bill - are having a much more agonizing debate about how to make next month’s rent - or even next week’s grocery budget - if their unemployment runs out. 

“Mr. President, for these families, this bill provides real help. This bill provides every single unemployed worker who’s exhausted his or her benefits, regardless of the state they live in, an additional 14 weeks of support. And extends unemployment to laid-off workers in states that have been hardest hit by job losses – including Washington state - by 6 weeks,
“It also makes some critical changes to help more families—like ensuring the additional $25 per week in benefits that Congress included in the Recovery Act doesn’t count against someone seeking food stamps.

“Washington state workers and Americans across the country have been hurt through no fault of their own.   They are out there every day looking for work.   And while we are seeing progress on the economic front, for many, the job market is still discouraging. Unemployment is now at 9.8% - a 26 year high. Since this recession began in December 2007 over 7.4 million people have lost their jobs. And the 15 million Americans who are trying to find jobs are searching for an average of 6 and a half months before something comes through.

“While those statistics clearly point out the need for this bill, the stories behind the statistics provide even more of a call to action.

“Last week, I told some of the stories that have been pouring into my office from unemployed workers across Washington state; workers who were not asking for a handout, just a small measure of support as they work to get back on their feet.

“Mr. President, today I am going to share two more stories from the hundreds that have come in over the past few days from across Washington state urging me to do everything I can to make sure this bill passes.

“Loretta Messick, from Auburn, Washington sent me a message just yesterday. She had been working for more than 25 years- but was recently laid off for the first time in her career.  Loretta is desperately looking for work, but is not sure she will be able to find a job before her benefits run out. She is working with her bank to try to adjust her mortgage payments, but if the unemployment runs out she tells me her family is in very real danger of losing their home. And Loretta is not alone.

“I also received a story from Patricia Obrist from Renton, Washington. Patricia and her husband both had jobs in the construction industry—they both had good jobs, but they were laid off when business slowed down for the companies they worked for. She told me she has only 8 weeks of unemployment benefits left, and then will have to start dropping expenses like health care, car payments, and their mortgage. And she asked us to give her just a little more time for her to find a job, and give her a chance to avoid losing everything she has worked so hard for.

“Mr. President, for Loretta, Patricia, their families, and millions more like them, the question that haunts them each day is - What will we do if support runs out? Where will we go when our savings is exhausted?  When the credit cards can no longer make ends meet?  When the bank won’t wait for the mortgage payment any longer? Who do we turn to?

“In a time of national crisis - it’s our job to ensure that we are answering those questions. And we can help by proving a bridge to financial stability.

“Mr. President, we cannot sit on the sidelines. Doing so would only compound the problems we already face as: More families would be pushed into bankruptcy, more homes would be foreclosed upon, more people would lose their health care, and less progress would be made on the road to financial recovery.

“We cannot sit by as working families are pushed to the brink by a financial crisis they didn’t create, but are still paying for.  I urge all my colleagues to listen to the voices of their constituents and to join us in passing an unemployment extension that ensures the struggles of America’s laid-off workers are not ignored.  And this bill could not come at a more critical time.

“I also want to point out that these benefits would mean little if they couldn’t quickly get into the hands of those who need it the most.  And the people of our state workforce agencies, like the Employment Security Department in my home state of Washington, are critical to making that happen.  Despite increasing demand, they’ve worked tirelessly to serve unemployed claimants.  And, I know that this time won’t be any different.  I applaud them for their efforts to ensure that these funds are distributed as quickly as possible to eligible claimants. And I appreciate the work of the leaders of this bill to ensure they are able to do just that.

“I yield the floor.”