Witness Wednesday: Voices of the Unemployed


June 19, 2014

“I am a single father of two small children, a boy who is 5 and a little girl who is 3…. I have worked hard my entire life and have never been afraid of hard work but … it’s very hard to find work…. Unemployment isn’t something that people are asking for because they are lazy or do not want to work, it’s something that some people need temporarily to be able to survive on.” – Kelley, Panama City Beach, Florida
Debbie Weinstein speaks at Witness Wednesday

When Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of CHN, read Kelley’s story in front of members of the House of Representatives and advocates gathered on Capitol Hill last week, I felt a chill – despite the stifling heat and humidity that marked the afternoon. Kelley’s story was just one of a handful of stories read aloud as part of Witness Wednesday, an event designed both to highlight the plight of the long-term unemployed whose emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) was cut off in December of last year, and to move Congress to renew this benefit. Story after story, just a few of the more than 2,000 collected by the  Center for Effective Government, the National Employment Law Project, the National Women’s Law Center, Half in Ten, and CHN, told of the struggles of those who have lost their jobs and the safety net of unemployment insurance.

These stories represent those of the more than 3 million individuals who have lost unemployment benefits because of the inaction of Congress – and specifically House Republican leadership who refuse to allow a vote to extend benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has new data showing the unemployment rate by state and by county, but what their map doesn’t show is that more than a third of jobless Americans have been out of work for longer than six months. These are the long-term unemployed whose voices are being heard on Witness Wednesdays. Watch the video below from last week’s Witness Wednesday event to hear some of these stories.



This week’s Witness Wednesday event focused on stories of women and their families. Many of the stories were provided by the National Women’s Law Center, who also released an issue brief highlighting long-term unemployment trends among women and the impacts of parents’ long-term unemployment on children. Witness Wednesday gatherings will continue through July. See the full schedule and join in person or via live stream.

Have you been affected by a lack of federal unemployment benefits, or know someone who has? Share your story at Our American Story, a joint project of CHN and Half in Ten.

Number of Americans Cut Off of Extended Unemployment Compensation

Counter courtesy of the Office of Rep. Sander Levin

Labor and Employment
Our American Story
Poverty and Income
unemployment insurance