House, Senate Democrats Introduce Legislation to Renew Federal Unemployment Insurance

Nov 20, 2013

House and Senate Democrats today introduced legislation to renew the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for an additional year, preventing an immediate expiration of benefits for 1.3 million Americans during the week of Dec. 28. The legislation would effectively extend current law through 2014, providing unemployed Americans with a vital lifeline as they continue to recover from the severe economic crisis, from which the economy has yet to fully recover. The economy still has 1.5 million fewer jobs than when the recession began in 2007. To put the severity of the Great Recession into perspective, consider the fact that the previous three recessions – which began, respectively, in 1981, 1990 and 2001 – each took fewer than four years for the economy to regain the jobs lost. Yet, six years after the Great Recession began, our economy is still 1.5 million jobs shy of reaching pre-recession levels. What’s more, 36 percent of unemployed Americans have been out of work for six-plus months, much higher than any peak experienced during any recession since the Great Depression.

Ways and Means Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) and Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Ranking Member Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced identical bills in the House and Senate. All 16 Ways and Means Democrats have co-sponsored the measure. Democrats announced the bill’s introduction during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, where they noted that failure to act would hurt job growth to the tune of 310,000 jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Ways and Means Democrats released a report earlier this month highlighting the number of Americans in each state who would lose federal unemployment insurance on Dec. 28, as well as how many additional Americans are estimated to be impacted during the first half of 2014. The report, which includes a description of how the Emergency Unemployment Compensation works, can be found here. Key points include:

  • 1.3 million will lose UI the week of Dec. 28
  • Almost 1.9 million more would lose UI in the first half of 2014 as their state benefits run out
  • Failure to extend UI would cost economy 310,000 jobs, according to EPI
  • 36% of unemployed have been out of work for more than six months
  • Economy still has 1.5 million fewer jobs than before Great Recession began
  • Unemployment benefits (# of weeks) have dropped by more than a third in the last two years, according to CRS
  • Average weekly EUC benefit has dropped $42 to $256 a week due to sequestration

REP. SANDER LEVIN (D-MI): “This is a jobs issue, plain and simple. The Great Recession was deeper and longer than any economic downturn in the last 70 years and millions of Americans rely on federal unemployment insurance to stay afloat as they continue to look for work. While our economy has made enormous progress, the severity of the recession continues to ripple throughout our nation and we must maintain this vital insurance for the long-term unemployed.”

SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): “Preserving unemployment insurance will help jobseekers, businesses, and states and provide a major economic boost to the national economy as well. Maintaining UI is part of a broad range of pro-growth and pro-jobs policies that Congress should be enacting.  We need to bridge the partisan divide and do what is best for American families and our economy: bolster consumer demand, provide some economic certainty, and preserve UI.”

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): “Withholding benefits from those actively seeking work in a poor economic climate makes as much sense as withholding aid from those hurt by a poor climate. Cutting benefits can batter a household like a storm can tear at a house.”

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): "Both parties have extended emergency unemployment insurance in times of high unemployment and we need to continue that now. The economy is getting better, but unemployment is still too high and there are still three people looking for work for every one job opening. Congress needs to focus on helping businesses create jobs, not pull the rug out from families unemployed through no fault of their own."