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. Over 125,000 Long Island residents collected unemployment benefits
this year. Seventy-six percent of the unemployed on Long Island 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
Over 125,000 Long Island residents collected unemployment over the course of
this year. Seventy-six percent of Long Island’s unemployed relied on these
benefits to provide basic necessities for their families. 4,800 Long Island
residents would lose their unemployment benefits unless they are extended.
Source: New York State Department
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.