A picture of Representative Sheila Jackson Lee
Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

About Rep. Sheila
  • Unemployment Insurance Benefits

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2014-01-09

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    JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, 48 hours, a million-plus Americans received letters in their mailboxes. They weren't overdue tax letters. They were not letters suggesting that you are at fault. It was not a notice to say that you are no longer an American citizen. It was not a letter to say you are now relieved of any responsibility to pay any bills or to provide for your family.

    It was a letter denying, or extinguishing, taking away the unemployment insurance that most Americans have come to understand that, as working Americans, having worked in their life, that they would be the recipient of these benefits during a brief lapse or an extended lapse of not being able to find work. The chronically unemployed percentage is the highest that it has been in decades, and therefore, this is not the time to delay.

    I hold in my hand as well a resume of a competent worker, a college graduate who has the responsibility to support his family and who has been looking for work for 2 years, earnestly, energetically, and intensely, and cannot find work.

    The clock is ticking on the 30 hours in the United States Senate, but the real concern is my friends in this body. Recognizing that these letters deal with people's lives, and to make a representation that all is well, unemployment generally is 7 percent. However, it was lower than that when President Bush signed the unemployment insurance benefits in 2008. These guys, these distinguished Americans, misfits, why can't they find work? Twenty thousand-plus are veterans looking for work, men and women who served in the United States military, or, as we met in the White House on Tuesday, a mother of two distinguished men who are serving in Afghanistan.

    So the 1.3 million languish while we are trying to make a determination that may not be able to be made. Frankly, I would ask that we all be reasonable. I would simply make the point that it is an emergency.

    I want to pause for a moment and thank the Houston Apartment Association that has worked with me and has sent a letter to all of their members asking for those 12,000, some of whom are residents of apartments in Harris County, to be sensitive and tolerant of those individuals who can document that they were the beneficiaries or the recipients of unemployment insurance that was cut off on December 28. I want to applaud them for their sensitivity in dealing with those particular individuals. I ask mortgage companies and utility companies and city water bill companies to be tolerant as well, to be working with families who are basically without a lifeline.

    {time} 1015 But the issue before us is the fact that these letters have gone to people such as this woman, who has looked for work every day. She liked her job and was laid off for no fault of her own.

    Right now, we have the opportunity to pass a 3-month emergency relief--some of us have introduced bills for 1 year--and then contemplate, discuss, and work with what might be the appropriate way of funding the continuation.

    No person unemployed, chronically or not, is happy with an unemployment benefit check. What they are happy with, Mr. Speaker, is the ability to work and to provide for their family.

    So I would make the argument that as we discuss privacy issues on the Affordable Care Act, which are already taken care of by CMS, today and tomorrow on the floor we should be passing unemployment insurance. I ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me, recognizing that Americans want to work. Let's help them transition with a bridge of unemployment insurance.


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