September 30, 2009

Nearly 70,000 In Rochester / Finger Lakes Region Collected Unemployment Benefits This Year - Gillibrand Pushes For Extended Benefits

78 Percent of Unemployed Rochester/Finger Lakes Area Residents Depended on Benefits to Support Families

Washington, DC - With unemployment benefits set to expire for tens of thousands of New Yorkers, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today pushed for an extension to unemployment benefits. Nearly 70,000 residents in the Rochester/Finger Lakes Region collected unemployment benefits this year. Seventy-eight percent of the unemployed in the Rochester/Finger Lakes Region depended on these benefits to support their families.

"For many families, unemployment benefits are a sole source of income, and their only way to pay bills and put food on the table," Senator Gillibrand said. "Unemployment benefits have been vital for families across New York. They can't afford to be cut off now. As we continue our economic recovery, we need to make sure we're providing assistance for those hit hardest by this recession, and make sure they have the resources they need to get back on track."

Nearly 70,000 residents in the Rochester/Finger Lakes Region collected unemployment over the course of this year. Seventy-eight percent of unemployed Rochester/Finger Lakes Region residents relied on these benefits to provide basic necessities for their families. 1,897 Rochester/Finger Lakes Region residents will lose their benefits unless they are extended.

COUNTY

Unemployment Rate

Number of Unemployed as of August

Residents Collecting Unemployment
This Year

Percentage of Unemployed Dependent on Benefits

Genesee

6.9%

2,400

3,935

87%

Livingston

7.7%

2,500

3,865

78%

Monroe

8.3%

31,800

39,302

80%

Ontario

6.7%

3,800

5,556

76%

Orleans

9.3%

1,800

2,684

77%

Seneca

7.2%

1,300

1,577

61%

Tompkins

6.3%

3,400

2,799

46%

Wayne

7.7%

3,700

6,870

100%

Yates

6.4%

800

1,136

65%

Source: New York State Department of Labor

National unemployment reached 9.7 percent in August - with some communities exceeding double digits. The job market is historically the last part of an economic recession to recover - forcing the unemployed to bear the brunt of recessions the longest and making it increasingly difficult to find new work.

In addition to providing a lifeline for the unemployed, jobless benefits are effective economic stimulus because it puts money in the hands of those who need it most and who spend it immediately - injecting activity back into the sluggish economy.  In fact, Moody's estimates that every dollar of unemployment benefits translates to $1.64 in economic stimulus.

Senator Gillibrand joined a group of 22 Senators urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to pass legislation to make sure Americans still on the path to recovery continue getting the resources they need to get there.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation authorizing a 13-week extension for unemployment benefits last week.

The Senators' full letter is below:

The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader of the Senate
S-221 Capitol Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader of the Senate
S-230 Capitol Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

We write to express our strong support for a swift extension of unemployment insurance benefits to help jobless workers in an extraordinary weak labor market. The House recently passed legislation on a bipartisan basis to extend benefits to states hit hardest by the downturn and companion legislation is currently pending before the Senate.

As you know, in addition to the monetary stimulus in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) to spur economic growth, create jobs, and provide fiscal relief to states, the law provides significant help to strengthen the safety net for the growing number of unemployed and underemployed Americans. Specifically, the ARRA extended unemployment benefits through the end of 2009, increased unemployment benefits by $25 a week, and provided a 65 percent subsidy on COBRA health premiums, among others. These provisions were much needed, not only in terms of their economic value, but also because they demonstrated a commitment to helping those who can't find jobs.

However, with the unemployment rate rising to 9.7 percent nationally and double-digits in numerous states, many who have been out of work are struggling to find jobs as they become scarcer. A record five million Americans have been unemployed for six months or more, and there are now more than six jobless workers for every job opening in the United States. Indeed, over half a million workers are expected to exhaust their unemployment benefits by the end of the month, and another 1.4 million are estimated to run out of coverage by the end of the year.

While there are signs that the U.S. economy may be emerging from recession, the unemployment rate will likely remain high into next year. Chairman Bernanke recently cautioned that the economic recovery is likely to be relatively slow at first, with unemployment declining only gradually from high levels.

In addition to providing more weeks of unemployment insurance benefits, it is vital to continue unemployment compensation programs in law through at least 2010 to ensure benefits are available to workers more recently unemployed. It is also important to consider proposals that would help to stem job loss. Looking forward, we need to create a path of growth that creates jobs as consumers spending returns and production increases.

In the context of the current economic situation, continuing to help out-of-work Americans will aid our nation's recovery. It will put money in the hands of people who will spend it quickly on basic necessities, and it will support stabilization in the housing market by making it easier for families to stay in their homes.

We look forward to working with you on this important issue.