Murray Introduces Bill to Extend Unemployment Assistance

Oct 29 2003

Without congressional action, millions will lose unemployment benefits

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Sen. Patty Murray today introduced Senate legislation to extend unemployment assistance to millions of Americans who are still unable to find work. There are 9 million Americans out of work, and the percentage of long-term unemployed is at a 20-year high.

Even worse, the current round of unemployment benefits will expire on December 31st. Majority Leader Bill Frist has said the Senate will recess for the remainder of the year on November 14th.

If Congress fails to act, millions of Americans will not only be out of work, but will also have no unemployment assistance.

“At a time when we are spending a billion dollars a week in Iraq, the least we can do is give unemployed Americans a few hundred dollars a week,” said Murray. “Congress cannot leave town without providing a lifeline to laid-off workers. That’s why we’re here today, that’s why we’re fighting, and that’s why we’re offering this bill.”

With an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, Washington state reported in September that 217,000 people are out of work. If Congress does not extend unemployment assistance before going home, 124,000 Washingtonians could exhaust their benefits.

Murray is an original co-sponsor of The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act (S.1708), which would provide an additional 26 weeks of unemployment benefits to roughly 4.6 million Americans.

The legislation would:

  • Continue federal unemployment benefits for an additional 26 weeks

  • Provide assistance to those who have already exhausted their benefits

  • Provide 7 additional weeks of benefits for high-unemployment states like Washington

Murray went to the Senate floor today to try to offer her legislation. But the majority party refused to allow the bill to be voted on. Murray then asked whether the majority would schedule time for a vote, but the other party would offer no assurances.

“Since President Bush took office, my state has lost 70,000 jobs,” Murray said. “Washington state currently has the 3rd highest unemployment in the nation. These people did not choose to be unemployed, and should not be blamed for being unemployed. They want to provide for their families, but they’re about to get cut off unless Congress does the right thing and extends unemployment benefits.”

“The clock is ticking. Time is running out, and we can’t leave town without helping families get back on their feet,” Murray continued.

Photo | Murray's Full Remarks