UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION EXTENSION ACT OF 2008--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - November 20, 2008)
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Mr. KENNEDY. Madam President, next week we will celebrate Thanksgiving--a holiday to be with family and to give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy. But this year, American families gathering around the Thanksgiving table are burdened with serious worries: Are we going to lose our home? Can we afford to retire when our savings have been wiped out? Will we have to choose between sending our children to college and paying our medical bills?
One of the greatest hardships millions of Americans are facing is the loss of their jobs. The current job market is the worst in the past quarter century. Over 1 million people have lost their jobs this year--half a million in September and October alone. Last week, more workers filed for unemployment benefits than at any time since the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Economists predict the unemployment rate will continue to climb from its current 14-year high of 6.5 percent to well over 8 percent in the coming year.
Earlier this year, Congress approved additional unemployment benefits for workers. That was an important step, but families need additional support. Unemployment benefits have expired for many workers, and finding a new job is far more difficult as the recession deepens. More than 2 million Americans have been unable to find work for more than 6 months. If Congress fails to extend benefits again this year, nearly 1.2 million Americans will have exhausted their benefits by the end of the year.
That's why this legislation is so essential. It provides 7 additional weeks of unemployment assistance to workers whose benefits have expired, and an additional 13 weeks for jobless workers in high-unemployment states. This bill has already passed the House overwhelmingly, with strong bipartisan support. By acting today, we will deliver immediate aid to many of the neediest Americans who are unable to find work.
Not only does the extension of unemployment benefits provide a lifeline for struggling families, it also serves as a needed and immediate stimulus for the economy--each dollar of unemployment benefits generates $1.64 in economic growth. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this critical extension of unemployment assistance.
Providing these additional unemployment benefits, however, is not the only step we must take to help working families meet the tough challenges that lie ahead. Jumpstarting our economy and restoring American prosperity will take bolder vision and more decisive action. We need to create good jobs for the millions of Americans who want to work. That means investing in our workers, investing in our infrastructure, and investing in technology for the future. It also means repairing the broken safety nets, so that more families who are being hurt by this downturn can get back on their feet.
I wish we could have done more in this lame-duck, but at least we are taking an important step. I look forward to working with our new President and the new Congress in January to meet these difficult challenges and to restore the vitality of our economy.