Time for Change: Reinstate Emergency Unemployment Benefits
This Sunday, we started the day with a time change, as we "sprang forward" by an hour, but for nearly 2 million long-term unemployed workers, time continues to stand still as they wait for Congress to reinstate emergency unemployment benefits (EUC).
Within the next couple of weeks, the Senate is expected to vote on an extension to EUC. For many of who have been laid off during these tough economic times, this is their only source of income as they struggle to find work. The Senate has failed to pass an extension twice now, and while the partisan bickering over dollars stalls action, the long-term unemployed continue to have trouble making ends meet.
After a recent editorial urging the reinstatement of the extension, The Seattle Times received hundreds of stories from laid-off workers trying to find jobs. Below is an excerpt from Todd Martin's submission. In September 2013, Martin was laid off from his job as a wildlife biologist. His tale of financial and mental struggle is common of the stories sent to the newspaper.
I have had many interviews, but none have yet ended in a job offer. Believe me, if you have not been through this experience of being laid off and searching for work, it is not only a full-time endeavor, it also barely pays the bills (and I am a single person with no dependents, no debt, no mortgage). It also takes its toll on one’s mental and physical health, going through bouts of depression and feelings of self-worth. In four weeks, my unemployment insurance will run out. It’s a scary prospect to not have any income coming in when I have been trying so hard, day in and day out to find employment in my field.
If Congress reinstates EUC, Martin will have more time to devote looking for work. The EUC program was enacted in June 2008, when the national unemployment rate was 5.6 percent. Last Friday, the Department of Labor released its latest figures, which show U.S. unemployment at 6.7 percent--this is the weakest job market since World War II.
If the last vote is any indication of how events may unfold with the upcoming third vote, a single senator could decide a final outcome. Faith leaders in Chicago sent a letter to Sen. Mark Kirk last week, urging the Republican from Illinois to reinstate benefits. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana could also hold possible swing votes that could pass the legislation.
This week, as people grumble about having to wake up and report to work one hour earlier, we must remember the long-term unemployed who lost their safety-net when EUC expired, and continue to look for jobs. As members of the faith community, we should not turn our backs on them. Even if your senators are on record with a vote to renew benefits, still call them and tell them they have your support. Call 800-826-3688, or send a personal email, and urge both your senators to renew EUC. If you are on Twitter, you can also tag your senator and amplify the message using the #RenewUI hashtag.
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