Honestly, I was a terrible witness. My friend and I once saw a kid steal drinks from a gas station, and the attendant asked us to describe what happened to police. Here’s what I had: Baseball cap, jersey, jeans, driving a car. My friend? She knew the team names, the guy’s height, the items he took, and the kind of motorcycle – not car – he’d been driving. Ouch.
Witnessing an event is not the same as serving as a witness – trust me. Being a witness means taking part in something. It means remembering crucial details, withstanding questions or attacks from the other side, and knowing that a great deal might be riding on how you tell your story. We put a lot of stock into first-hand accounts, and as a witness, you’re bringing to life events that may have happened far away or right here at home. It’s not an easy job.
This week, the first in a series of Witness Wednesdays will take place just outside the Capitol, where members of Congress and advocates from the faith, labor, civil rights, and nonprofit communities will join together to listen to the voices of long-term unemployed workers. Each Wednesday for six weeks, we will share stories submitted by jobless workers who have been searching for work for more than six months. No doubt, we’ll learn about individuals’ struggles to find new work, but we’ll also hear about how the expiration of federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits has left many families unable to make the rent or pay their medical bills. Organized by the Center for Effective Government, today’s Witness Wednesday kick-off event can be viewed by livestream from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. ET. Read more »
Last December, I wrote a blog post about a hearing held by House Democrats on extending emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. Workers shared heartbreaking stories about losing work through no fault of their own, running out of state benefits, and relying on federal support to make ends meet. Many of these workers had had long and successful careers, and now they were scrambling to cover their bills and pay for gas to get to interviews. Their biggest fear was that Congress would fail to extend benefits before the program ended in late December, leaving families out in the cold.
Yesterday, I went to similar event, but the stories were different. These workers weren’t afraid of losing benefits – they already had. Months ago. Read more »
You know what the House didn’t do? Take up the Senate’s bipartisan bill to extend federal emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for nearly 2.6 million Americans who have lost their benefits since the program’s expiration in December. Last month, Senators came together from across the aisle to announce a deal to extend supports for long-term jobless workers – workers who have been unemployed for more than six months and whose state benefits have run out. The Senate passed a bill, sent it to the House, and watched it go nowhere. Read more »
For the more than 2 million unemployed Americans whose unemployment insurance (UI) benefits were cut off last December, there’s hope.
Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who has been leading efforts to extend federal emergency UI benefits for long-term jobless workers, announced yesterday that Senate negotiators have reached a bipartisan deal. The agreement, if passed, would extend benefits for workers who have been unemployed more than six months and whose state benefits have run out. The extension would provide for five months of federal benefits and allow for retroactive payments dating back to the program’s expiration in December.
We’ve told you before how crucial UI benefits are for workers struggling to make ends meet. With the economy continuing to recover, long-term unemployed workers know just how difficult it is to find a job, and they rely on benefits to put food on the table, put gas in their cars, and keep up with rent payments until they secure work. Long-term unemployment rates are still at historic levels – in fact, the long-term unemployment rate rose for women last month. Congress’ failure to act has hurt families around the country – and this latest report of a deal doesn’t mean the battle’s over. Read more »
When the expiration of federal emergency unemployment insurance (UI) started making front-page news in December, the number of people set to run out of benefits immediately was astounding: 1.3 million people.
Today – just a few weeks into the New Year – we’re at 1.6 million. And that number is only going to grow unless Congress acts.
We’ve been telling you just how critical these benefits are to Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. While the economy struggles to recover, jobs remain hard to come by – currently, job seekers outnumber job openings by almost three to one. Particularly hard hit are the nearly 3.9 million Americans who are long-term unemployed, meaning they have been searching for work for more than six months. The rate of long-term unemployment remains at historically high levels, and while workers previously were able to rely on federal unemployment benefits when their state benefits ended, the federal program’s December expiration has left many workers out in the cold. Read more »
It’s been a dismal week for unemployed Americans and their families. On Tuesday, Republican senators blocked bills that would have renewed the federal emergency unemployment insurance program, which expired on December 28. Since then, over 1.5 million long-term unemployed workers have lost a crucial source of income – and that number continues to grow as 72,000 people lose access to benefits each week.
Fortunately, many are determined to turn Congress around. Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a press event on unemployment insurance in the Senate, where I listened to gut-wrenching stories from a group comprised of members of Congress, unemployed citizens and activists. Senator Jack Reed’s opening words captured the afternoon’s tone: “We should not be here. We should be on the floor to extend unemployment insurance.” Read more »
Final passage of the bill, however, is still far from assured. Amendments will be considered in the Senate that could undermine the bill by, for example, requiring jobless workers to meet burdensome new conditions to continue receiving benefits. Some Senators will likely propose offsetting the cost of the bill with cuts to other programs that low-income families depend on. And the bill will still need to garner 60 votes to pass in the Senate, then pass the House, before it can reach the President’s desk. Read more »
It’s the first Monday in 2014. I’ve taken down the decorations, put away the gifts, and made my resolutions – but the surest sign that the holidays are officially over is that Members of Congress are returning from recess. And that’s a good thing, because they have a lot of work to do.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) – who have been leading a new round of budget negotiations – have announced that they reached agreement on federal government spending levels for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2014 as well as FY 2015. Given Congress’s propensity toward last-minute bargains in recent years, you may be a bit surprised that the announcement from Sen. Murray and Rep. Ryan came a couple of days before their self-imposed deadline of December 13, and just over a month before current FY 2014 funding runs out on January 15. But there remains a lot more work to be done to ensure that we don’t face another government shutdown in January – and to make sure low-income women and their families are protected and unemployed workers aren’t left behind.
The budget savings in the bill total approximately $85 billion altogether, with about $22 billion to be used for deficit reduction in addition to the $62 to $63 billion intended to replace sequestration cuts. Major sources of the proposed savings include higher security fees for air travelers and cuts to pension benefits for military retirees and new federal government employees.