Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

More than Snow Keeping Nearly 2 Million from Work

DC Snow by RobynBy Robin Stephenson

Today’s snow day is an inconvenience for members of Congress who can’t get to work, but the snow cannot be blamed for the fact that they have been frozen by inaction around renewing emergency unemployment benefits. That Congress continues to leave 2 million job seekers out in the cold without help, while the market is still weak, is irresponsible and unacceptable.

While senators bicker over how to pay for the extension, 38-year-old former medical biller Trista Selmar-Steed wonders how she can pay for basic necessities, like food. While senators talk about the deficit, Illinois resident Jennifer listens as her phone rings with calls from bill collectors, but no job offers. Without benefits, she doesn’t have access to the resources that could help her find a job, she recently told PBS Newshour. 

The stories of the long-term unemployed all follow a similar path – downhill. Congress can change that by reinstating their benefits. These are people who once got up and went to work each day, paid their bills, and contributed to the economy, but now live the daily nightmare of unemployment. An estimated 200,000 are veterans, and new people are joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed everyday.

There are still three applicants for each job opening in this country; the United States has not reached full employment and January’s jobs report shows growth is anemic and wages are lagging.

For the third time, the Senate is expected to vote on extending unemployment insurance this week. A few weeks ago, Congress failed to advance this bill by just one vote. It is likely that one vote will again determine the outcome. It is also likely that one of three Republicans holds that decision in his hands: Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, or Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana. They must hear from constituents, as well as their colleagues, and be urged to do the right thing.

If your senators are on record with a vote to renew benefits, still call them and tell them they have your support. You may even ask them to reach out to their colleagues Kirk, Portman, and Coats, and ask them to vote to renew emergency unemployment benefits (EUC) immediately. If you are from Indiana, Illinois or Ohio, it is even more urgent that you call 800-826-3688, or send a personal email.

It is easier to build a fence at the top of a cliff than to drive an ambulance to the bottom, goes the adage. Each week that passes without action, more and more Americans are headed in the wrong direction when Congress could easily act on their behalf and help them change course.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Photo: Washington D.C. March 3, 2013 (courtesy of Robyn Johnson).


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