The Congressional Progressive Caucusby Representative Matt Cartwright
Posted on 2014-01-09
CARTWRIGHT. I thank my valued and trusted colleague from
Wisconsin for granting me this time.
Mr. Speaker, I rise as a Congressman from Pennsylvania, in fact, a Congressman from Scranton, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of Secretary Robert Reich, I might add, someone we are very proud of. And I am very proud myself to be a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and I rise here to speak in support of a reasonable extension for UI benefits with no strings attached.
I say ``no strings attached'' because every time we have extended long-term UI benefits, we have done so with no strings attached, no political wrangling, no arm wrestling. ``No strings attached'' means no conditions whatsoever. It is the right thing to do because you have to do it in a situation like this. In fact, five times during the George W. Bush administration, this Nation extended UI benefits on an emergency basis with no strings attached, and I see no reason why we have to depart from this American precedent today.
I understand, Mr. Speaker, the importance of fiscal responsibility. It is not like there is only one party that understands fiscal responsibility. We get that on this side of the aisle, and we get that in the Congressional Progressive Caucus as well. But the question is of timing. We want to balance the budget. We want to pay down the national debt. We get why those things are important, and we know that UI benefits can't last forever.
But the fact of the matter is it is an emergency now. As our dear friend, the gentlelady from Texas just styled it, it is an emergency now. The reason it is an emergency is the vast number of American citizens who are long-term unemployed. Mr. Speaker, 1.3 million on December 28 got cut off. In my own district in northeastern Pennsylvania, over 6,000 families got cut off on December 28, 3 days after Christmas.
The fact of the matter is this is not American tradition. Since 1959, we have never ended long-term UI benefits at a time when so many Americans are long-term unemployed. The gentlelady from Houston just mentioned it is 2.6 percent long-term unemployed in this country right now. Every other time we have cut off long-term UI benefits, it has been at a time when the people who are long-term unemployed are way less of a percentage. I think the previous highest percentage was 1.3 percent, in other words, half the percentage that we have now. Now is not the right time to cut off people from long-term UI benefits.
Mr. Speaker, these are real people we are talking about. Before my voice entirely gives out, I want to read to you a letter I got from a lady named Carol Blankenhorn from Schuylkill Haven in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, which I proudly represent. Carol writes: I am writing because I am a single unemployed mother that does not get any child support and have been supporting myself and my son up until my territory at my job was dissolved. I have been very diligent in my job search, but to no avail. I believed that at least I had 26 weeks of standard benefits, but the emergency extension is so crucial to me and others because of the poor economy and the lack of jobs. I have now received a notice of exhaustion for benefits in 3 weeks, and I am devastated. I am not one of those people that are sitting back collecting. I couldn't live with myself. But now as I sit and look at my son 1 week before Christmas, I am beside myself and have no idea how I am to survive. I am urging you to please extend and renew emergency Federal extended unemployment benefits. In closing, I would ask you to please respond to me of your views and intentions on this very important issue.
That was Carol Blankenhorn, a real person from Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania. These are real people we are talking about. Leaving aside the damage to the economy of stopping UI benefits at this point, leaving aside all of the economic realities that favor extending UI benefits, remember above all, we are talking about real people and real families; and that alone, in the dead of winter, is a great argument not to cut people off UI benefits at a time when it is next to impossible to find another job.