WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Eight months into the 111th Congress, and the Obama presidency, it is clear that the economic policies that we have put in place are helping to pull our country out of recession. This month, the Blue Chip economic survey confirmed that 81% of leading economists believe the recession is over; Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently stated that he agrees.
“Non-partisan economic analysts agree that the actions taken by the Obama administration and Congress, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, were critical to stabilizing our economy and putting us on the path to recovery. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Moody’s, and the Council of Economic Advisors all concluded that our economy has approximately one million more jobs than it would have had if the Recovery Act had not been passed. And last week, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that the Recovery Act kept six million Americans from falling below the poverty line and reduced the severity of poverty for 33 million Americans. Whether we are Republicans or Democrats, those are results we can all cheer—because they mean economic security for the people we represent.
“However, it is clear that unemployment remains a problem for millions of American families. The headlines may say that our recession is over—but for those who remain out of work, this is still a time of hardship and struggle. According to the CBO, it has also become clear that the hole we are climbing out of was deeper than we knew: now we know that the economy was in even worse shape than economists realized when President Obama took office in January.
“Though unemployment continues to strain families in all of our districts, job losses have been steadily decreasing under President Obama, with last month’s figures the best in a year. But while job losses have slowed, it will take some time before we can reverse the losses that economists agree began nearly two years ago, and start creating enough jobs for people who have been out of work. Long-term unemployment remains at its highest rate since we began measuring it in 1948: over 33% of the total unemployed have been out of work for more than 26 weeks.
“And, even as our country emerges from an economic crisis, hundreds of thousands of Americans and their families face a more personal crisis: at the end of this month, their unemployment insurance will run out, even though they continue to look for work. Many of these workers are middle-class Americans; and many of them lost their jobs without notice. According to a recent unemployment survey conducted by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers: ‘six in 10 of those whose employer had let them go had no advance warning. Adding to the pain for many, nearly four in 10 said they had been employed by their company for more than three years, and one in 10 for more than a decade.’ In other words, Americans who had what they thought were stable jobs—and made commitments based on those jobs, like mortgages and college payments—found themselves out of work without warning, leaving them and their families in dire straits.
“For their sake, this bill extends for up to 13 weeks the unemployment benefits of more than 300,000 American workers. I know that some argue that unemployment insurance can be an incentive not to seek a job at all. But that argument doesn’t hold water for the workers who are the target of this bill—workers in the states with unemployment rates over 8.5%, the states in which an honest effort to find work is most likely to be frustrated. We chose to target those workers who are still having difficulty finding a job—not because they’re failing to give their best effort, but because the economic climate of their state is still difficult.
“Not only is supporting job-seeking workers the right thing to do—extending unemployment insurance benefits all of us. That’s because the money provided is quickly spent on necessities, which provides an immediate boost to local economies.
“Mr. Speaker, an extension of unemployment insurance is supported by a bipartisan coalition of 22 governors, who understand its benefits for their economies and families. They write that unemployment benefits have ‘offered relief each month to struggling families across the country and have played a critical role in stabilizing the economy’—and that these benefits must be extended. I would also add that, because this bill is fully paid-for, it doesn’t add to the deficit.
“In eight months, we have come a long way in recovering from the recession inherited by President Obama. But we cannot forget about those whom the recovery has not yet reached—which is why I urge my colleagues to support this important bill.”