Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, right now the American people are dealing with tough economic times. Over 1 million Americans have exhausted their unemployment benefits without finding a job, more than 30,000 of those people are from my home State of Massachusetts. Can you imagine how hopeless these workers are to be at the end of their benefits with no job? I've heard from so many of my constituents recently about the great difficulties they're having finding jobs and how scared they are about providing for their families when their benefits run out. These are people who are desperate to work, but they've found that jobs are simply not available right now. In fact, there are 1.5 million fewer jobs today than in March 2001 when the current economic downturn began, and the number of jobs in the economy has been stagnant for several months.
I am pleased that Senator Reed has offered an amendment to the omnibus appropriations bill to provide additional weeks of benefits to the long-term unemployed, to those 1 million American workers whose benefits have already expired. I am a cosponsor of Senator Reed's amendment, although unfortunately I will not be present to vote in support of the motion to waive the budget act today. When we passed S. 23 on the first day of the 108th Congress, we extended benefits for one group of the unemployed, but ignored this equally deserving group. It is totally unfair to me that we have not provided benefits to the long-term unemployed, particularly when we know that the current unemployment rate of 6.0 percent is the highest rate in nearly 9 years and is higher than when the Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was created.
Twenty percent of America's unemployed have been without work for more than twenty-six weeks and that percentage is still growing. We must not leave the long-term unemployed and their families with no where to turn.
I urge my colleagues to support the Reed amendment.
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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I would like to voice my support today for Senator Daschle's amendment which provides emergency disaster assistance for crop and livestock producers who have suffered losses during the 2001 and 2002 agriculture production years due to natural disasters.
For U.S. farmers and ranchers, the current production disaster is multifaceted. In many areas, drought has decimated crops and has reduced water supplies available for livestock. In other regions, farmers are experiencing crop destruction and reduced yields and quality due to flooding and an increased incidence of crop pests and diseases. Especially hard hit are the specialty crops such as apples, cherries, and grapes in the Great Lakes region, the Eastern States and the Pacific Northwest that suffered frost, freeze, and drought damage this season and adverse weather in 2001.
The negative economic impact of natural disasters to American agriculture and rural communities continues to grow. In my home State of Massachusetts, the cranberry industry suffered $10 million loss in 2002 from drought alone. The situation across the Nation is the same: our farmers are in trouble and Congress needs to step in and provide assistance.
It is for those reasons I support the Daschle amendment. Unlike the Cochran amendment, it provides equitable disaster assistance to those producerscrop and specialty crop alikewho were impacted by disasters.