Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act—Motion to Proceedby Senator Edward J. Markey
Posted on 2014-01-08
MARKEY. Madam President, 1.3 million people already have not had
a happy new year. That is because, when we tried to extend the
emergency unemployment insurance before the holidays, the Republican
leadership said no. The temperatures may be dropping to new lows, but
we should not freeze unemployment benefits.
When the economy was collapsing and AIG, the multinational insurance company, needed funds, we found that money for AIG. But when the Americans who are still recovering from the very recession caused by these institutions need more unemployment insurance, we just cannot seem to find a way to get it done.
These are not just numbers. These people, 1.3 million people across the country and 60,000 in my home State of Massachusetts, now face the harsh reality in 2014 that their country no longer has their backs.
One of these people is named Vera Volk. She is from Lynn, MA, just north [[Page S92]] of Boston. She is a 20-year employee in the biotech/pharmaceutical industry who was laid off in May of 2013. Her layoff was in part due to sequestration, cuts in the Federal funding of biotech last year.
Last month Vera lost her unemployment benefits when the emergency unemployment insurance program ended. Vera has suffered a double injustice. First, her job was eliminated through sequestration, and then she was denied the extension of her unemployment benefits. Without the additional unemployment insurance, Vera and her family now need help to obtain food and medical assistance. In the near future, Vera's family faces the loss of their car and their home. Thousands of families in Massachusetts are facing similar but equally difficult decisions due to the termination of this critical program.
Published reports say that unemployment insurance kept 2.5 million Americans, including 600,000 children, out of poverty last year alone. That is why I am a cosponsor of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act that Senators Reed and Heller have introduced, to reinstate and continue Federal support for the emergency unemployment insurance program until the end of March. Under that legislation, unemployed residents of Massachusetts such as Vera Volt would be eligible to receive up to 35 weeks of additional unemployment benefits.
Today, there are approximately 11.3 million Americans out of work and looking for a job. In Massachusetts, the unemployment rate is 7.1 percent and approximately 245,000 are looking for work. Unfortunately, in too many cities such as Lawrence, New Bedford, and Springfield--all over Massachusetts there are cities with much higher unemployment rates. Those unemployed workers in Massachusetts and across this country are finding it extremely difficult to find a job in this market. According to the Economic Policy Institute, for every one job opening there are 3.1 unemployed workers. So 2 out of every 3 job seekers have no job that they can actually find. Yet we are going to pretend that there is a job for them to be able to find.
There are many people who believe they are not working hard enough to find a job. Let me tell you something. Back in 2000, the unemployment rate in the United States of America went down to 3.8 percent. Guess what happened. People who were unemployed took those jobs. When unemployment goes down to 3.8 percent, when the government and the private sector are doing their job, people come to work.
In Massachusetts in 2000, unemployment went down to 2.8 percent. People were not hiding under their beds. People were not pretending they could not work. When the job was there, people took it. This is not ancient history; this is 2000, 3.8 percent unemployment, 2.8 percent unemployment for the State of Massachusetts. People who are offered a job will take a job. The jobs are not there. It is not the fault of these families. It is not the fault of these job seekers. We should not be punishing them. We should not be punishing their families because this capitalist system is not producing the jobs right now.
We have to reach out with a helping hand to these families so they can make it through this difficult time when the system is failing them. Instead, we are going to blame them for not finding jobs that do not exist. It is a beautiful circular argument where you never have to help the people who are actually being victimized by a failure in the economy. The truth is--and I restate this--when it went down to 3.8 percent unemployment in 2000, employers called these people back and said we want to put you to work, and the workers said, yes, we are ready to do it.
Here we are, once again, back in this cycle where too many people are pointing the finger at the worker when we know the worker will do the job. We have to be honest. The system, this capitalist system, this interaction between the government and capitalism right now is not producing the jobs for these workers. We have to work on that. That is our responsibility. We should be humble enough to say that it is the government, it is the private sector, not working together smarter--not harder--in order to accomplish these goals for all of these workers across our country.
If we did that, I think that ultimately we would have the very interesting result, according to all economists, of actually injecting more funding into the economy, creating more jobs, not destroying an additional 200,000 or 300,000 additional jobs this year because we did not inject the funding that would be provided to the unemployed that would be spent on the economy that would keep it on the upward tick it is on right now.
Instead, paradoxically, we are going to wind up with Republicans, if they are successful in cutting off this funding for long-term unemployment, seeing unemployment actually rise instead of being lower.
We have to work together in a bipartisan fashion in order to make smart investments now that will create the jobs, continue our country's economic recovery, and lower unemployment. I believe that our national strategy for job growth must continue to emphasize the areas where we excel as a nation. It is education, it is health care, it is biotech, it is clean tech, it is technology in general, and it is the investment into these areas that continues to give us the opportunity to be an engine for job growth in the world.
But while we chase this dawn of a brighter economy, we must not leave behind millions of Americans and their families. Let's not punish those who are already the victims and who continue to be the victims of a Wall Street collapse because we, as a nation, fail to understand and identify these innocent victims who still sit up there with their families.
I hope we can come together on a bipartisan basis to continue this program which is such a lifeline to the unemployed, their families and our economy.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Missouri.