House Passes Unemployment Benefits Extension
Thursday, July 01, 2010 at 4:57 pm
After failing to pass an extension of unemployment benefits earlier this week, the House tried again — and succeeded, 270 to 153. The Senate will take up its version of the bill when Congress returns from a week-long break, on July 12.
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) had introduced the bill, H.R. 5618, to extend UI through Nov. 30 and retroactively grant benefits to those who started losing them at the beginning of June. By the time the Senate acts, approximately 2.5 million people will have stopped getting unemployment checks.
Levin released this statement on passage:
Earlier today, a Republican Member of this House spoke on the plight of millions of unemployed who are losing their unemployment insurance, saying, he came to the floor with a heavy heart. I think the unemployed in America welcome heavy hearts, but if there isn’t a helping hand, a heavy heart doesn’t work. Those who are still unemployed should not suffer due to the indifference of Republicans in Congress.
I want to list very briefly the basic facts for everyone to consider and for all of our country to hear: 1.7 million unemployed workers, unemployed through no fault of their own, looking for work, will have lost their benefits by the end of this week. By the end of next week, without further action, 2.1 million will have lost their benefits. By the middle of July, when the Senate can address this issue again, 2.5 million will be without this basic assistance. The average unemployment insurance in this country is about $300 a week, roughly half of the previous wage on average. For a family of four that average check is only 74 percent of the poverty level.
These basic facts should refute the notion that those who are unemployed, who would have no benefits, are not looking for work. Indeed, the reality is very clear. For every job available there are five unemployed workers. This issue is fundamentally an emergency for our country and our economy. Unemployment benefits have been considered, and passed as emergency spending under both Democratic and Republican Congresses and Administrations.
I cannot understand how anyone could come to this floor and say for 1.7 million people and their families this is not an emergency. There is no excuse for voting no. It has been noted that the Senate is out of session. We must pass this so it is the first item of business when they return. The only reason this extension has not passed the Senate in recent days is because there could not be found more than two Republicans to vote for this extension. That is a shame and it is shameful. This House needs to lift that shame off of the shoulders of everyone in this institution and pass this bill so that millions of American workers get the benefits they earned and deserve.
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