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(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 described the struggles of some of the Washington state residents who have contacted her on the need for this extension. The stories include unemployed Washingtonians who have had to sell their belongings, can no longer afford their mortgage, and whose unemployment is running out.

An extension of unemployment benefits will likely be voted on in the Senate this week. 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. 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:

An Opportunity to Deliver for Families
Mr. President, this week we have an important opportunity to address a real kitchen table issue for families all across this country.
 
We have the opportunity to pass an extension of unemployment insurance - and in doing so –to provide a measure of financial stability to millions of Americans who have been laid off in the most difficult economic time since the Great Depression.
 
We have the opportunity to provide peace of mind to families who - left without a job and nowhere else to turn – are concerned about their future. 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. 
 
A 20 Week Extension
Mr. President, for these families the bill that Senator Baucus has worked to bring to the floor provides real help.  This bill extends unemployment to laid-off workers in states that have been hardest hit by job losses by 6 weeks, and 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.
 
It also makes some critical changes to help more families.  It makes clear that the additional $25 per week in benefits that Congress included in the Recovery Act doesn’t count against someone seeking food stamps.  And Mr. President, this bill could not come at a more critical time.
 
The Statistics – A Discouraging Job Market
This month we have seen banner headlines in newspapers all across the country that make a stark point about the tough climate our laid-off workers face.

In my own home state unemployment has now risen to 9.3%. And Mr. President, that number alone doesn’t fully illustrate the need to provide immediate relief.

Because even with the robust Recovery program that has saved and created jobs throughout my state – our workers are still feeling the effects of a very sharp recession. Since this recession began in December 2007, there have been over 145,000 jobs lost in my state.

That means that 1 in 20 jobs in Washington have been lost. And these unemployed workers are searching for an average of 6 and half months before they find a job.

The Stories – Families in Crisis
And while those statistics clearly point out the need for this bill, the stories behind the statistics provide even more of a call to action.

Stories of single mothers scanning the classifieds every morning - only to have to search through coupons each night to afford a family dinner. Stories of skilled workers with many years of education –and the debt that comes with it - facing stacks of unpaid bills. Stories that over the past few weeks – as unemployment benefits have become exhausted for millions of workers - have poured into my office.

Stories like the one Wane Ryan of Bonney Lake, Washington shared with me. Mr. Ryan is a carpenter with 23 years of experience who has been looking for work for more than a year now.  In his letter, Mr. Ryan tells of recently selling his personal belongings, relying on food banks, and being on the verge of financial ruin through no fault of his own. He wrote me to ask for another emergency unemployment extension just to keep his head above water.

Or Kristina Cruz from Seattle who received her last unemployment check just a few weeks ago. Kristina has been unemployed for 20 months after spending 10 years in human resources. She talks of going above and beyond in her job search – a skill she has picked up in her career.  But still interviews have been few and far between.  She says she is stressed out and panicked. She also says she is not interested in living off the government long-term - but in the midst of this economic crisis she believes we must pass this extension.

Or finally Mr. President, the story of Angela Slot and her family from Washougal, Washington. Angela’s husband designs kitchens and has been out of work since last May. He has returned to school, put out over 1,500 applications in different fields, in different states, and for every different type of job. Yet he remains without work. The Slots have taken out loans and used all their savings and unemployment payments just to stay in their home and provide for their three children. However, without this extension, the Slot family calculates they won’t have their home by the end of the year.  

We Must Act
Mr. President, for these 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 for families today. By the end of this year, my state projects that nearly 18,000 residents will be in need of these benefits to keep them afloat.

My Story
Mr. President, I know personally how important it is to have the government in your corner during difficult financial times.  When I was young my Dad had to stop working when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. That left my mom to support 7 kids on her own as she also took care of my father.

It was a difficult time and we made many sacrifices to get by. But our country was also there for us. And through food stamps, VA benefits, and student loans my family made it through.  And that’s why I believe so strongly that we need to be there now for the millions of Americans who are struggling today.

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.

Mr. President, Angela Slot ended her letter to me by saying that she felt that families like hers, families that are just scraping by are “falling off the radar.” This bill is our opportunity to prove that is not the case.

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.

I yield the floor.