News Releases

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE: Murray Urges Renewal of Critical Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Jan 07 2014

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 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. Earlier today, the U.S. Senate took a first step in the effort to pass legislation renewing these benefits. 

Currently, there are three unemployed workers for every single open job. If every opening was filled tomorrow, America would still have more than 7 million workers across the country without a job to even apply for. Additionally, more than one-third of all unemployed workers have been out of a job for 6 months or longer—above historic averages and higher than in past recoveries. Without a renewal of federal unemployment benefits, the United States economy is expected to lose over 200,000 jobs in 2014.

Excerpts:

“And as much as we are heartened by headlines that predict a strong economy this year--we understand just how fragile our recovery still is, with millions of Americans still out of work. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, not shrink from the challenges we face. Because the truth is that all the economic predictions in the world mean nothing if we don’t continue to support policies that help our middle class. And that work absolutely starts with extending unemployment benefits for the millions of Americans who have been losing their benefits since December 28th. Because unemployment assistance goes right back into the economies of communities large and small, non-partisan economists have found it’s one of the most effective ways to build a recovery that lasts”

“Last month’s budget deal provided us with a glimmer of bipartisan hope coming into this New Year. However – we must continue working together to focus on improving the economy for middle class Americans. We can’t afford to allow this lifeline to be cut off.” 

“The stories I shared today, like so many others, are heartbreaking--but they also show the fierce determination that so many who are out-of work exhibit in the struggle to get back on their feet. They are stories of applying for work far below their own qualifications, of going back to school to earn the skills needed to change careers, or of waking up every day to scour for jobs in communities that all too often lack opportunities.”

Full remarks:

“The New Year represents an opportunity for us to refocus and plan for the year ahead. Unfortunately for millions across America, their focus will be on just trying to stay afloat over the next year while they search for work.

“All of us here know there is no more important issue for middle class families across America right now than jobs and the economy. This is what they want their elected officials to be focused on—and it’s exactly what I think we ought to be working on every day.

“By reaching a bipartisan budget agreement last month we did a number of things to work toward this goal. First, we showed the American people that members of Congress can work together, that we can listen to each other, and that we can get into a room and talk frankly without trying to hurt each other politically.

“Second, by breaking through the partisanship, we finally ended the seemingly never-ending cycle of lurching from one crisis to the next.

“Third, we showed that compromise isn’t a dirty word--and that there is a big coalition that is ready to make some sacrifices politically to get things done.

“And finally--and importantly for our efforts to continue to grow our economy--we gave American families and businesses the certainty they need to grow.

“But of course there is so much more to do.

“And as much as we are heartened by headlines that predict a strong economy this year--we understand just how fragile our recovery still is, with millions of Americans still out of work. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, not shrink from the challenges we face. Because the truth is that all the economic predictions in the world mean nothing if we don’t continue to support policies that help our middle class. And that work absolutely starts with extending unemployment benefits for the millions of Americans who have been losing their benefits since December 28th. Because unemployment assistance goes right back into the economies of communities large and small, non-partisan economists have found it’s one of the most effective ways to build a recovery that lasts.

“These same economists have also said that failure to continue these benefits will cost us over 200,000 jobs. And renewing these benefits is simply the right thing to do at a time when millions of American families continue to teeter on the brink in states where unemployment remains stubbornly high.

“I’ve come to the Senate floor today with the hopes we can continue the bipartisan momentum -- that we saw with today’s cloture vote and that we have seen over the last few weeks -- and take a final vote to provide a lifeline for millions of families.

“This should be an easy issue: it would simply be wrong to cut this support off while the economy continues to struggle and so many workers are having difficulty finding work.

“Right now, there are three unemployed workers for every single open job.  If every opening was filled tomorrow, we would still have more than 7 million workers across the country without a job to even apply for. Additionally, more than one-third of all unemployed workers have been out of a job for 6 months or longer—above historic averages and higher than in past recoveries.

“So millions of Americans are unemployed today not because they don’t want to work —and not because they don’t have valuable skills—but simply because they’ve found themselves in an economy that isn’t creating jobs as quickly as we need it to. These unemployed workers are desperate to get back on the job. And unemployment benefits made all the difference for them and their families while they scoured the want ads, pounded the pavement, and sent out resume after resume.

“In fact, I have received story after story from workers and families from across my home state of Washington--about what unemployment benefits have meant to them and what losing them would mean for their future. These men and women can’t afford to have the rug pulled out from underneath them and are now struggling with each day that passes.

“One of these stories came from Carol in Puyallup. Carol is a nurse who was laid off from her job.  She decided that in order to make ends meet, she would start her own legal nurse consulting business and subsequently enrolled in classes to help hone her entrepreneurial skills. While taking classes, Carol relied on her unemployment benefits to get by. Not only were her benefits slashed significantly due to sequestration, Carol just found out she was one of the 25,000 in Washington state whose benefits were completely cut off on December 28th. As a leader in the classroom, Carol has spoken to many other soon-to-be business owners who are also suffering. In the face of unexpected job loss, they now feel like they’re being punished for deciding to chart a new course in their career. They’re creating work for themselves – and potentially others – but now have to decide if they can continue following their dreams without the critical support that unemployment benefits would provide.

“And Carol is not alone.

“I also heard from a woman who was laid off from her job at a plant in Keyport, WA early last year. She told me, ‘Living in Kitsap County we are geographically isolated and finding work with so many qualified applicants right now is much more difficult. 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.’

“And finally, there’s Traci in Everett – a former Executive Assistant with 20 years’ experience. 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. Shortly 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. She even asked that I send her a video of this speech – as she won’t be able to tune-in today because she decided to get rid of her television in the process of finding savings. Like so many others, Traci is searching high and low for that one break. She told me, ‘I just need time for someone to give me a chance.’ For Traci, unemployment benefits are not the solution—a job is what she wants— but they provided her with some critical support while she took care of her family and tried to find work.

“These are just a few of the stories I’ve received—but there are so many just like theirs. Millions of people across America—including almost an additional 38,000 in my home state of Washington—stand to lose the benefits they count on if Congress doesn’t act soon. These workers 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 —in this struggling economy, renewing these benefits is truly critical. 

“The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said renewing unemployment benefits is one of the most effective policy tools we have to boost the economy and get money in the pockets of consumers.

“So I am hopeful the Senate will act quickly, without political games. Because failure to do so wouldn’t just be devastating for the families who count on this support—it would also hurt small businesses and communities to have billions of dollars pulled away from consumers who spend it every month on food, rent, and clothing.

“Last month’s budget deal provided us with a glimmer of bipartisan hope coming into this New Year. However – we must continue working together to focus on improving the economy for middle class Americans. We can’t afford to allow this lifeline to be cut off. 

“The stories I shared today, like so many others, are heartbreaking--but they also show the fierce determination that so many who are out-of work exhibit in the struggle to get back on their feet. They are stories of applying for work far below their own qualifications, of going back to school to earn the skills needed to change careers, or of waking up every day to scour for jobs in communities that all too often lack opportunities.

“And I believe it’s Congress that needs to match their determination and grit.

“We took an important first step today. And I know that the unemployed workers that I have heard from are watching. Today’s vote is a glimmer of hope but we cannot let it fade. We must move to pass this extension quickly and the House must follow suit.”