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Democrat NC 1

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  • Congressional Black Caucus Addresses Unemployment Benefits

    by Representative G. K. Butterfield

    Posted on 2014-01-13

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    BUTTERFIELD. Let me thank you, Mr. Horsford, for yielding to me this evening. Let me also thank you for your passion and your tireless work not only on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus but on behalf of the people of Clark County, Nevada, and all of the other people that you represent in your great State.

    Thank you very much for your tireless energy. I have watched you from the first day that you have come to the House floor, and you are, no doubt, one of the hardest working Members of this House, and I thank you so very much.

    Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor today to urge my Republican colleagues to pass an extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and to do it now. This program is a crucial safety net for those who are most in need. My colleagues know that I represent North Carolina, but what many of you may not know is that my State, the State of North Carolina, already lost its Federal unemployment insurance last year. Republican Governor Pat McCrory turned away $780 million in Federal funding to assist the long-term unemployed. Now, on December 28, a few days ago, 1.3 million Americans joined tens of thousands of my constituents in losing out on the support that they deserve.

    This program, Mr. Speaker, is a response to the greatest recession since the Great Depression. In the last 5 years, President Obama has led our Nation back from the brink of economic collapse, but there is still work to be done. Now is not the time to abandon this program. 1.3 million Americans have been searching for work for more than 26 weeks, often after being laid off from jobs they have worked at for years.

    The need for emergency unemployment insurance is especially high in communities like those that I represent in North Carolina. Double-digit unemployment still persists in many counties that I represent. In my congressional district, one in four people, including 36 percent of our children, live below the poverty level. Families in transition depend on emergency unemployment insurance to put basic food on the table, to care for their children and to search for new employment.

    Last year, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory dealt a devastating blow to the long-term unemployed by reducing State unemployment benefits. That reduction caused the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program to literally dissolve in our State. Governor McCrory made this decision knowing its harmful impacts and that it would make North Carolina the only State in the country to end emergency jobless benefits for its citizens.

    The Governor's decision is a disgrace. That decision forfeited-- forfeited--$780 million in urgently needed Federal benefits for long- term unemployed North Carolinians and cost our State $1.5 billion in economic activity. The elimination of the EUC program nationwide now could cost an additional [[Page H177]] 200,000 jobs due to reduced economic activity. This is according to the Congressional Budget Office.

    At the beginning of this year, Americans from all 49 other States lost out on their emergency unemployment benefits, just like my State did last year. Now 1 million families will struggle to pay their bills and provide for their families during their search for employment. North Carolinians have already seen firsthand how devastating these cuts can be. My constituents are outraged. They are outraged with Governor McCrory and Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly who chose to abandon this program.

    We must extend this program to give families a chance to get back on their feet. Democratic proposals to extend the program would give my constituents a chance--a fair chance--to receive Federal unemployment benefits held hostage by our Governor. Two times in the last 2 months House Republicans on this floor have nearly unanimously defeated Democratic motions to hold votes on extending this program.

    Therefore, we must stand up against those like Governor McCrory who seek to disenfranchise hardworking people who are down on their luck by extending emergency unemployment insurance and other critical programs, a program which they have paid into as insurance payments for many, many years.

    We cannot, Mr. Speaker, we must not afford to turn a blind eye and to leave those behind who are most in need.

    I want to thank you, Mr. Horsford, for bringing this to the attention of the American people. I hope my colleagues are listening tonight because this is a sense of urgency.

    Mr. HORSFORD. I thank the gentleman from North Carolina, and I thank him for his profound remarks this evening and the call to action, not only for the leadership in North Carolina but for the leadership in this House to do its job in bringing legislation forward to allow us to vote to extend unemployment insurance benefits for the people of North Carolina and across America, who this week, now because of the failure of Congress to act, when they went to their mailbox to receive their unemployment insurance benefit, this is the week that they opened that mailbox and nothing was there to provide that bridge. So this is real, and so people are impacted.

    This has been an insurance program that has received bipartisan support in the past, and there is no reason why this Congress cannot do its job to get this done now. I thank the gentleman from North Carolina for his leadership.

    I would like to now turn to the gentlelady from Texas, who brought forward and who raised the objections prior to our even adjourning in December, along with 170 of our other colleagues, calling on the leadership to not go on recess but, in fact, to stay here and do its job. We are where we are now, but we have raised these objections, and the gentlelady from Texas has raised these objections.

    I would like to yield now to the gentlelady from Texas, Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me thank the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Horsford) and Mr. Jeffries again both for convening the Congressional Black Caucus, under your leadership and the leadership of our chairwoman, the honorable Marcia Fudge, and to be joining here on the floor, at least to date, with our colleague from New York, our colleague from North Carolina and our colleague from New Jersey, which is clearly showing the vast depth of this particular crisis going from South to North and to the far western State of Texas.

    Let me say to those who are presently unemployed, the 72,000 a week that occurs as we stand on the floor of the House, that you can count on the Members on this floor, the Democratic Members, the Congressional Black Caucus and our good friends on the other side of the aisle, to recognize that this is not a partisan issue but an American issue.

    Just a few weeks ago, or just last week, in fact, I had in the Houston Chronicle an op-ed that said the number one job of the House is to extend emergency unemployment aid. The program will help the economy by creating jobs and boosting growth.

    I think it is important to emphasize and refute some of the negative stigma that comes from those who misunderstand what the unemployment benefit--or unemployment insurance, let's use that word--means. It means that individuals have actually worked. They are working people. They put into the idea of having an unemployment benefit, and the United States Federal Government determined in times of bad economic times to continue the 47 weeks through an emergency relief.

    By the way, it was supported by President George Bush in 2008 when he offered to say that these individuals have worked previously, they are looking for work, and they deserve to be able to support their families.

    Individuals like Anetta Parker, who has been looking for work for 2 years, who is holding up the very letter that she held up at my press conference in Houston to acknowledge that this is a letter that many people are getting in their mailboxes. Not only are they getting these letters, but they are not getting any indication for relief, call United Way, call social services. I can tell you, people who work do not have a tendency to know the local social services, and they are desperate. They get a letter that they are being cut off.

    In the midst of this I met individuals who are looking for work and said, I am now homeless because those dollars were allowing me to pay week to week for a place to live, a place to clean myself, if you will, to make myself presentable for work, to look for work, which is a requirement of the emergency unemployment insurance benefit, and they are now on the streets.

    Not only are they on the streets, Mr. Horsford, but when I went home on Friday and sat down again at the career and recovery resources to look for or to talk with more individuals, many of these persons are veterans, because veterans are taught to suck it up, and they have not even, in some instances, attempted to get these benefits--to those who would say that everybody just wants to be on the dole. So beyond the unemployment benefits of 1.3 million, there are many others that we have not approached.

    So it is important that this Special Order is done to reach to the other side of the aisle for the Speaker to put on the floor of the House an emergency 3-month extension of unemployment benefits, to not cast aside individuals who have been looking for work and to not ignore the fact that over this cold December, we lost 16,000 jobs in construction, we lost some 11,000 jobs in the movie industry, we lost jobs in the sports industry, and we are continuing to lose jobs because this month was a cold month. So the production of jobs was 78,000. Even though this economy is rebounding and we have had some other good months, this month, the December month, it was 78,000.

    Don't you think that those individuals who are looking for work were rebuffed by the fact, or were blocked by the fact, that there were jobs that were lost? So I would like to encourage my friends in the other body to quickly find a way of coming together. As my colleagues know, they postponed the votes today. I believe that some of the suggestions being made about pension relief for military persons may be a basis of finding compromise, but I think when we pit the idea of fiscal responsibilities and deficits against individuals having a roof over their head and children having food on the table, it is disgraceful.

    It is equally disgraceful when people misinterpret the idea of what unemployment benefits are all about. As I wrote this op-ed, it saddened me, though I believe in the First Amendment, when letters came in response to the op-ed, and they wanted to ask a question: Why don't these people get a job? {time} 1945 Why don't we have a jobs program? That didn't disappoint me; I think that is a good question. But they didn't seem to understand that it was people looking for work who could not find work. It was long lines of people who couldn't find work. They want to work. So I would say to them, this is not a hand out but a helping hand. I expect to introduce soon a training bill that allows individuals who are on unemployment benefits to get a stipend to be able to utilize for Labor Department- designated disciplines of work, to [[Page H178]] train for work that needs additional workers.

    So it is not a stipend to go out to your local job-training setup that somebody set up. It is actually to have officially documented needs for the particular profession that you are training for. You get your unemployment benefit, you are not cut off, and you get a stipend for that training. That creates jobs.

    But just to say let's pass various bills, like the Keystone bill, and that is the cause of no jobs is not accurate. But I do think we can support the jobs bill of the President, and we will create jobs.

    So I want to thank the gentleman for allowing us to come and to be able to highlight that in the cold of the winter there are people on line trying to get work, and that were people on line trying to get work in November and October and September and August and July, because this young lady, Ms. Parker, has been looking for work for 2 years. She is a very competent administrative assistant, along with many others. Veterans have been looking for work.

    So I would like to say to those I met with on Friday, we will not forget you. We recognize that you are deserving of human dignity and that you want to work, that you have worked, that you are not looking for a handout, and that the unemployment insurance is not a handout. It is an emergency relief for those who have worked. Let us have compassion. Let us have sympathy. Let us care about others, and let us work together to extend the unemployment insurance benefit to provide for the families of America.

    I thank the gentleman.

    [From the Houston Chronicle, Jan. 8, 2014] No. 1 Job for House: Extend Emergency Unemployment Aid (By Sheila Jackson Lee) Right now, 1.9 million Americans are experiencing an economic emergency, which will turn into a catastrophe for them and their families if Congress does not act immediately to extend the emergency unemployment program that expired on Dec. 28. Unless the aid is extended through 2014, nearly 14 million Americans will be negatively affected--the 4.9 million workers who will see unemployment insurance cut off and the approximately 9 million additional family members those workers are supporting.

    There are some who believe that there is no economic emergency justifying an extension of the emergency unemployment program. They are wrong. Let them tell that to jobless veterans looking for a new job in an economy in which there are still nearly 2 million fewer jobs now than there were before the recession began. Let them tell that to the persons who know from experience there are more than three applicants for each new job created. The national employment rate is 7 percent and of these unemployed, the long-term unemployment rate--the share of unemployed workers who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer--is 37 percent, the highest it has been in 20 years.

    Behind these grim statistics are the heart-breaking stories of real people--veterans, parents, seniors--struggling to get by on about $300 a week. These benefits, which the recipients earned and paid for through their payroll taxes, are needed to pay rent and utilities, buy groceries, pay for Internet access to search for jobs and gas to get to job interviews.

    This is why the most urgent task pending before the House of Representatives is to extend the emergency unemployment program. To address this emergency, I introduced legislation last month, the Unemployed Job Hunters Protection and Assistance Act (H.R. 3773), that would extend the program for 12 months to provide the benefits earned by the recipients and avoid what will be a tragedy not only for those who are unemployed but also for an economy still recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression.

    Extending the program is good for the nation's economy because it will create an estimated 200,000 jobs, increase economic growth by .2 percent and generate $1.52 in economic activity for each dollar expended.

    The emergency unemployment program was established in 2008 during the Bush Administration and has been reauthorized several times as the economy continues its recovery. Congress has never failed to extend emergency unemployment insurance when the rate of long-term unemployment was even half the current level of 37 percent. And because of the emergency nature of the congressional action, the extension was not subject to any offset requirements during the Bush Administration. There is no good reason to impose any such requirements now; doing so serves no purpose other than to punish the persons who need our help.

    Despite a slowly recovering job market, these unemployed job hunters have not lost faith. Every morning, they get up and go out or online looking for jobs. They want to work. They still have hope that things will get better so they can provide for their families. But they need the help that unemployment insurance is intended to provide.

    Now is not the time to scapegoat those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Now is the time to extend the emergency unemployment aid. At a minimum, Congress should and must vote to extend the program for three months while negotiations continue on a long-term solution. On Tuesday, a bipartisan measure that would do this cleared a procedural vote in the Senate, allowing debate to continue on the three- month stopgap. This is an economic emergency. It is time for congressional Republicans to work with their Democratic colleagues on the issues of importance to the American people.

    ____ Texas and 18th Congressional District Employment and Unemployment Information 64,294 unemployed workers in Texas lost their benefits on December 28.

    11,294 unemployed workers in Harris County lost their benefits on December 28.

    An additional 16,900 unemployed workers will lose their benefits in the first six months of 2014.

    Employment Situation in Texas: Unemployment rate: 6.4 percent.

    Maximum weeks of benefits available now: 54.

    Maximum weeks of benefits if Congress doesn't act: 26.

    Reduction in benefits since 2011: -42 percent.

    The current average weekly benefit is $338.59.

    If EUC is extended in Texas: 11,766 jobs will be saved through the end of 2014.

    Percent of unemployed receiving UI before expiration of Federal program--TX--29.

    Percent of Unemployed Receiving UI after expiration of Federal program--TX--20.

    Mr. HORSFORD. I thank the gentlelady from Texas. I appreciate very much you bringing to our attention who is covered by unemployment insurance and putting a face to who is receiving this insurance. I am glad you focused on that term ``insurance'' and the fact that these are individuals who have paid into the program, as they have been gainfully employed for some time.

    Due to no fault of their own, they are in need of this bridge. Many of them are in training, and this initiative of legislation you are proposing to link job-seekers to employer-based demands is exactly the type of reform that our side supports and that we are willing to work with the other side on, but we need to provide the extension of the unemployment benefits while we work on those reforms.

    Right now, the Congress has failed to provide this bridge, and you have documented that very well in your remarks this evening. I thank the gentlelady.

    Let me highlight, as well, some of the additional information on who is covered by unemployment insurance benefits. This is according to the Department of Labor: four out of five beneficiaries of unemployment insurance benefits, Mr. Speaker, are individuals with children in the household or another adult in the household, typically a spouse; 44.5 percent of individuals who receive emergency unemployment benefits are households with children. So just think about that for a moment. This is the week that those emergency employment benefits did not come in, the $300 or $400 or $500 that they may have received to help meet their basic needs this month. That impacted not only that job-seeker, not only that unemployed worker, but also their children.

    Half of the people receiving emergency unemployment insurance have at least some college education. So for those who continue to use this rhetoric of these are people who are lazy, who are sitting at home channel surfing, they don't want to look for work, half of them are people already with college education or some form of education; 36.4 percent have high school degrees.

    And, finally, Mr. Speaker, 50 percent, over nine in 10 live in households with total income less than $75,000 a year. This is the working poor of our country. These are the people who are striving to be part of the middle class; and, if anything, they are using emergency unemployment benefits as a bridge until they can get back on their feet. I also want to point out that 43 percent are individuals with income over $75,000 a year. So this economy has hit virtually every stratum of income level, and so that is why it is important for this Congress to do its job in extending unemployment insurance benefits.

    I want to commend the other Chamber, the leadership, Majority Leader Harry Reid from my home State of Nevada, and Republican U.S. Senator [[Page H179]] Dean Heller, also from Nevada, in large part our State, because we have unemployment at about 9 percent. We are tied with Rhode Island for the highest unemployment in the country, not because job-seekers don't want to go to work, because the second highest industry in our State was construction and because of the bust of the construction economy in our State, there are no jobs or there are very few jobs for those trades workers, for engineering firms, for architecture firms. I have one architecture firm that has had to lay off 70 percent of their workforce in the last few years because there simply aren't the jobs in the construction sector. Despite the fact that our economy is beginning to rebound, it is not rebounding in all sectors or all regions of the country. That is why it is critically important that this Congress do its job to extend unemployment insurance benefits for the 20,000 Nevadans who have lost them, and the 1.3 million Americans who have also lost them.

    I now would like to turn to my good friend and freshman colleague. It has been a great opportunity over the last year to get to know him and the work that he does in the great State of New Jersey and the commitment that he brings to serving the people of his congressional district. I yield to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Payne).

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