Jobless to Congress: Extend Unemployment Benefits

by Clyde Weiss  |  December 02, 2011

Facing the daunting prospect that some 2.2 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits by February unless Congress extends the benefit program, U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), other members of Congress, unemployed workers and labor activists called on lawmakers Wednesday to do the right thing.

One of those unemployed workers, a 62-year-old Philadelphia resident named Baltazar, says that his survival now depends mainly on what he receives from unemployment benefits. He’s a long-time member of AFSCME Local 1739 (Council 47) who was laid off in 2009 from his job as a director of a major non-profit organization. In the nation’s capital today to speak to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Baltazar says his ability to pay the mortgage on his house, and his health care costs, will be severely impacted if he loses unemployment benefits.

Congress needs to help create jobs, he says. “But at least extend unemployment benefits so people can support themselves to find work. If you don’t have the resources to do that, you will just disappear in the statistics.”

A bill to extend unemployment benefits, introduced by U.S. Reps. Levin and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), would also relieve states that have federal unemployment insurance loans from interest charges next year, and prevent higher federal unemployment taxes on employers in insolvent states.

The pressure to extend the programs increased after the Congressional “Super Committee” failed to reach an agreement to reduce the deficit. Extending unemployment benefits would have been part of a deal sought by President Obama and Congressional Democrats. Now, however, the program is set to expire and more than six million unemployed workers will lose that safety net by the end of next year unless Congress votes to extend the benefits.

Other current and former AFSCME members, from New York, Maryland and Washington D.C., also attended the press conference to lend their support for passing the extension. 

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