Katie Grant, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered a morning hour speech today on the need to extend emergency unemployment benefits. See below for a link to the video and his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Before we adjourn for the year, there are a number of important items we must address. The most pressing is the expiration of unemployment benefits at the end of December. Should Congress fail to act, millions of Americans who rely on emergency unemployment compensation will begin to see their payments disappear in starting in January. 2.1 million will have lost their benefits by the middle of February and over 6 million by the end of 2012.
“However, we have the power to prevent that from happening by extending these benefits. These emergency benefits were put in place at the start of the recession, and with so many Americans still out of work, now is certainly not the time to let them expire.
“The number one challenge we must address in the Congress remains job creation. Americans out of work have been doing their part to find jobs. Congress must do its part too. Some Republicans have unfairly and incorrectly blamed those who have been laid off for their continued difficulty finding jobs.
“However, there are over four people looking for every one job opening. At the same time, there are nearly 7 million fewer jobs today than there were in 2007. Instead of blaming the victims, Republicans instead ought to work together with Democrats to find a solution.
“Congress has never allowed emergency unemployment benefits to lapse with our jobless rate anywhere close to where it is today. If it did, over 17,000 people in my state of Maryland would see their lifeline cut off by February. In Ohio, Speaker Boehner’s home state, 80,000 people are at risk.
“Among African-Americans, Latinos, and other minorities, a disproportionate number have been affected by long-term unemployment and are especially vulnerable if these benefits were to lapse. Every state would see more Americans who are out of work slip into poverty.
“Local communities would be affected too, with residual job losses. The economic policy institute has estimated that allowing these benefits to expire would cost us another half a million jobs. I sincerely hope that Republicans will work with us to prevent so many Americans from being left out in the cold as they continue to seek jobs.
“It is long past time that they start working with us to pass a real jobs plan to get Americans back to work and grow our economy. Democrats have multiple jobs plans on the table – the President’s American Jobs Act and House Democrats’ Make It In America plan. Both will help create jobs right away and invest in long-term economic competitiveness.
“If Republicans continue to be unwilling to work with us on a plan to create jobs, I hope they will at least work with us to pass a measure that will prevent further losses as a result of expiring unemployment benefits. I strongly urge them to help us stop this looming and entirely preventable disaster. It is the responsibility we have to our constituents and to those looking to us for leadership during this challenging time.”