News Releases

Murray Offers Amendment to Extend Unemployment Benefits

Jul 10 2003

Murray’s effort would help 1.1 million Americans

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) offered an amendment on the Senate floor to extend unemployment benefits to workers who still can’t find jobs.



The Murray Amendment to the pending State Department Authorization bill provides 13 additional weeks of benefits for unemployed Americans who have already exhausted their 13 weeks of federal benefits – those workers who’ve been out of work for 9 months or more. It also provides 7 additional weeks of benefits for unemployed Americans who have received 26 weeks of benefits because they live in a state hit hardest by the recession. Finally, it provides parity to railroad workers currently ineligible for extended benefits.



The amendment would cost $2.5 billion and help 1.1 million Americans. It is retroactive for those who exhaust their benefit prior to the enactment of the State Department Authorization bill.

Unfortunately, the Murray Amendment was defeated 48-48 on a procedural vote.

Sen. Murray delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor offering her amendment:



Mr. President, in May, after weeks of Democratic efforts, Congress extended unemployment benefits for 2.5 million Americans who’ve been laid off due to the economic downturn. So far our Republican colleagues refused to include assistance for the 1.1 million Americans who’ve been hit-hardest by the economic crisis – those long-term unemployed who’ve already run out of their unemployment benefits. I come to the floor today to offer an amendment to the bill before the Senate.

My amendment will provide additional unemployment insurance compensation to the more than one million Americans who have exhausted all of their unemployment insurance benefits. I ask unanimous consent to add Senators Kennedy, Durbin, Daschle, Sarbanes, Clinton, Reed, Cantwell, Harkin and Dayton as cosponsors of my amendment.



The Murray Amendment provides 13 additional weeks of benefits for unemployed Americans who have exhausted all of their federal unemployment benefits. This means we will be giving additional assistance to American workers who have been out of work for 9 months or more.



My amendment also provides 7 additional weeks of benefits for unemployed Americans who’ve already received 26 weeks of benefits because they live in a state hit hardest by the ongoing recession.



Finally, my amendment provides parity to railroad workers currently ineligible for extended benefits.



The amendment would cost $2.5 billion and would help more than 1 million American workers and their families.

We are talking about the people who have been hit hardest by this recession. We are talking about workers who have run out of options, but still have to pay their mortgage. They still have to pay their medical bills, and they still have college tuition bills to pay.

One recent study concluded that unemployed workers do not have significant savings to carry their families through an extended period of unemployment. Unemployment rates normally replace less than 50 percent of lost wages. What this means is unemployed workers are draining their savings accounts just to survive. The problem is even more acute for the long term unemployed. Many have drained their savings entirely. They have nothing left.



Last week’s June 2003 unemployment report clearly demonstrates the need for my amendment. 30,000 jobs were lost in the month of June. Jobs have been lost for the last five consecutive months. More than 394,000 jobs have been lost since January. 9.4 million Americans are now unemployed. 3.4 million Americans have lost their jobs just since President Bush took office. We will soon be in the longest jobs recession since the 1930's and the Great Depression.



My own State of Washington has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation. The unemployment rate in my state is 7.3 percent. And that’s just the official unemployment rate. One recent business columnist suggested the actual unemployment rate for Washington state could be as high as 11.8 percent if you count all of Washington’s unemployed workers.



All across Washington in every sector and every region we are continuing to see job losses. One recent economic report predicted that it would be 2005 before any real job creation in Washington state. That is a long time for people who have been out of work for nine months or more.



I see that my colleague from Oregon, Senator Wyden, is on the floor. He and I share the distinction of representing the states with among the highest unemployment for the last two years. We know when we go home that we are going to be faced by neighbors and friends in every community across our state who have been on unemployment through no fault of their own. They want to be at work. They want to support their families. They want to send their kids to college. They want to pay their mortgage. They want to pay for healthcare. They don’t have jobs. They don’t have opportunities, and we have a responsibility in this country to make sure that they don’t lose everything because of a recession that has been no fault of their own.



Despite the rosy projections of economic growth and recovery from the Administration, real Americans are continuing to suffer in this economy. In my own state, approximately 20,000 workers would benefit from the Murray amendment.



I’ve met with many workers in my state who are struggling today. We’ve lost 35,000 Boeing manufacturing jobs in the last two years. On an almost daily basis, my office gets calls from workers who are desperate, who have lost benefits or will soon lose unemployment insurance compensation.



In fact, just yesterday, I received a call from a gentleman named Richard, and I want to read you the message he left my office. He said, “I live on Camino Island. I’m a laid-off Boeing worker. I got laid-off a year and half ago. And I’m in school right now. My UI just ran out. I have about 8 months left of school . . . I am really concerned right now. . . .That money would have been a godsend. I worked for Boeing for over 12 years.”



Mr. President, this could be anyone. Working hard, raising their family, working for Boeing for 12 years, through no fault of their own, through an economic recession in this country, through September 11, through a downturn in our airline industry, this gentleman was laid off. He's now trying to get his life back together. He's going to school. He doesn't want to lose everything. He wants to contribute back to this economy and to this country. He needs us to extend unemployment insurance to give him that kind of assurance that this country is there for him in the good times and in the tough times.



There are a lot of workers like Richard from Camino Island who are losing their benefits. Many of these same workers are losing hope in the current economy. My amendment gives more than 1 million American workers and their families new hope and new assurance that their country is there for them. I urge my colleagues to support my amendment and urge its adoption this morning on this bill.”