States Come Together to Join the Fight for Extended Unemployment Insurance
Labor Department Leaders from 10 States Gather in Niagara Falls to Ask the U.S. Senate for an Immediate Vote on an Extension
Albany, NY (September 24, 2009) - Can't See the video? Click Here to Get Adobe Flash Player. At a press conference in Niagara Falls, NY, State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith today stood with her counterparts from regions across the country to advocate for an extension of Unemployment Insurance. Current estimates indicate that between 35,000 to 40,000 New Yorkers will exhaust their benefits statewide in the week ending 10/4/09, and about 90,000 by the end of the year. Nationwide, more than 400,000 are slated to exhaust their benefits by the end of September and more than one million Americans will exhaust by the end of the year.
On September 15, Governor David A. Paterson joined with governors from 22 states in writing to House and Senate leadership to urge quick passage of legislation to extend several critical unemployment insurance provisions. Heeding the call of the Governors, on September 22, the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to extend Unemployment Insurance for an additional 13 weeks for states with unemployment rates at or above 8.5 percent. It is currently unknown when the U.S. Senate will take up its own version of the bill.
New York’s unemployment rate now stands at 9 percent, its highest level since April 1983, while the national unemployment rate is now at a 26-year high of 9.7 percent. Since the beginning of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed in the state has nearly doubled, from 445,000 to over 874,000. Labor agency heads from Oregon, Montana, Wisconsin, Kansas, Iowa, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Maine and Washington, who joined Commissioner Smith at the event, all have seen similar trends in their respective states.
New York State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith said, “Separately, we come from different states, political parties and regional economies. Together, we are united to fight for a common purpose – to ask the U.S. Senate to extend Unemployment Insurance for more than 300,000 Americans set to exhaust their benefits by the end of September, including thousands across New York State. Time has never been more of the essence than right now.”
Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Sandi Vito said, “Unemployed Americans are struggling to provide their families with the most basic of needs as they try to reenter the workforce. From the state of Washington to Washington, D.C., the effects of the national recession are being felt. That is why we must ensure that our unemployed neighbors have the resources they need to put food on their tables and make it through these tough times. The extension of unemployment compensation benefits is key to the financial recovery of our citizens and our economy.”
Kansas Secretary of Labor Jim Garner said, “Action taken by the House this week is a step in the right direction, but I would urge the Senate to consider expanding benefits in states that have not yet reached the 8.5 percent unemployment threshold. In Kansas, where the unemployment rate is 7.1 percent, thousands of families will be at risk within two months without a further extension of unemployment benefits.”
Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Roberta Gassman said, “Our unemployed workers and their families are struggling to survive. We are united in our call for action: Congress must provide relief for those who are running out of unemployment benefits.”
Oregon Employment Department Director Laurie Warner added, “This extension allows us to save a state-passed extension of benefits until next year. We are already working behind the scenes to make sure Oregonians get these new benefits as soon as they are available.”
Washington State Department of Labor and Industries Commissioner Karen Turner Lee said, “We all hope that the recession is indeed lifting, but it will be many months before the employment engine catches up. Meanwhile unemployed Americans still need to feed their families. As the Senate debates whether or not to further extend unemployment benefits it is important to remember that our unemployment insurance system exists precisely for times like these.”
John Lasky, an unemployment insurance claimant from Niagara Falls said, “It's getting to the point that the only reason I have my house is because of my unemployment insurance benefits.”
At the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) conference, also taking place in Niagara Falls this week, the agency heads passed a resolution urging the Congress to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program to December 31, 2010. This provision is most critical for those losing their jobs now, who will not qualify for any extension period without additional federal legislation.
In addition, the NASWA resolution asks Congress to: