Murray Prevails in Providing Unemployment Assistance for Airline Industry Workers in Supplemental

Apr 11 2003

Rebuffs Administration efforts to reduce assistance from 26 to 13 weeks, and to cut eligibility of aircraft manufacturers & suppliers, and airport workers

WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Sen. Patty Murray has successfully fought back efforts to dilute her amendment to provide unemployment assistance to thousands of airline industry workers. The workers assistance package was included in the War Supplemental Appropriations bill which was negotiated Friday by a House-Senate Conference Committee. A final Senate vote is expected Saturday.

The original Senate-passed War Supplemental included the Murray amendment, which provided 26 weeks of unemployment assistance for airline industry workers. But when the House-Senate conference committee met today, negotiators, under pressure from the White House, reduced the length of assistance to 13 weeks, and limited the eligibility requirements so that only airline workers, not airport workers or aircraft producers or suppliers, could receive assistance.

Sen. Murray, working with her Republican colleagues Senators Specter, Brownback, and Hutchison, offered an amendment to expand the definition of airline workers to include airport workers as well as aircraft manufacturers and suppliers. House conferees accepted the Murray-Specter amendment, and Rep. Obey offered an amendment to restore the 26 weeks that Murray had originally proposed.

"This is great news for the thousands of workers who have been hardest hit by the downturn in air travel," said Sen. Murray. "Congress has an obligation to look out for workers, especially when providing billions of dollars to the airlines. I am grateful that several of my Republican colleagues were willing to stand with me for so many workers who have lost their jobs."

115,000 airline industry workers have lost their jobs since September 11th, and the unemployment rate in the industry is 15 percent, which is nearly three times the national rate.

The cost of the Murray worker assistance package is about $275 million and is expected to cover as many as 200,000 workers across the country.

Sen. Murray's amendment will take effect immediately after being signed into law by the President.

The airline package provided $3 billion in direct reimbursements to the airlines and $100 million to help airlines reinforce cockpit doors.