CHN: Senate Democrats Call for Unemployment Benefits Extension
On September 25, Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) – flanked by several other Democratic Senators – held a press conference to draw attention to their proposal to extend unemployment benefits to workers affected by the economic recession. The proposal will most likely be attached to other Senate legislation as an amendment, and would extend unemployment benefits by at least 13 weeks – 20 weeks in high unemployment states. Several unemployed workers also attended the press event, held in a packed Senate conference room.Noting that this recession has been worse for unemployed workers than was the recession of the early 1990s, Kennedy emphasized the need for swift congressional action in providing relief to unemployed workers. According to Kennedy, 8.1 million Americans are currently unemployed, 2.2 million more than when the current President Bush took office.
Furthermore, by the end of the current recession, 800,000 more workers are expected to have run out of benefits than in the last recession. Congress passed three unemployment benefits extensions between November 1991 and July 1992, Kennedy pointed out, but benefits have been extended just once during this recession (with the economic stimulus legislation passed in March 2002).
Recent Labor Department data indicate that by the end of August, more than 1.1 million workers had exhausted their additional weeks of unemployment benefits without finding work. Moreover, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that roughly 1.5 million workers will have exhausted their extended unemployment benefits by the end of September, with the total expected to reach 2.2 million by the end of this year.