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Unemployment Benefits

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BROWN of Ohio. Madam President, it is, I believe, day 42 since 41 Members of the Senate have blocked us through filibuster, through obstructionism, through threat of tying up the Senate and shutting it down basically so that we have not been able to extend unemployment benefits to workers in Charlotte, in Ashville, NC, and Columbus and Cleveland, OH. It is unconscionable. It is unfair to those workers who have worked for 20 years and lost their jobs through no doing of their own. It is bad economics.

Presidential candidate MCCAIN's economic adviser, Mark Zandi, during the Presidential campaign said every dollar of unemployment benefits generates $1.60 in economic growth. He examined various kinds of expenditures--everything from tax cuts to a whole bunch of other government programs--and what would stimulate the economy best, from road construction to small business tax breaks, all the kinds of things that we could do for job growth.

He said--this is Republican JOHN MCCAIN who voted against unemployment extension--his economic adviser in the Presidential race said the best stimulus for the economy is unemployment benefits because every dollar that goes into the pocket of an unemployed worker in Lima, Gallipolis, Steubenville, or Miamisburg, OH, generates $1.60 in economic activity. That means they spend that dollar quickly because they need that money to pay their rent, to pay for utilities, to buy groceries, to go to the drugstore--to do all the things that are necessities of life that are obviously so important.

As the Akron Beacon Journal analyzed, Summit County emergency cash assistance cases rose 27 percent from May 2009 to May 2010. Food stamp cases climbed 22 percent over the same period.

It is an economic equation, to be sure, that extending unemployment benefits is the best thing for our economy. It is also a human equation, for all the problems people face in our country of not being able to simply provide for their families.

We can talk about the statistics; 90,000 Ohioans have seen their unemployment benefits expire. Forty-one Members of this body--40 of them Republicans--have said no to extending these benefits. We know these numbers. We see them all the time. We are blinded sometimes by all the statistics.

I would like to, as I do many days, put a human face on this issue and share what people in my State write to me telling me what these unemployment benefits mean to them.

Lisa from Cuyahoga County, the Cleveland area:

Please do not strand us here on the sea of uncertainty and washed up on the shore of ruin. That statement may be dramatic, but that is how it feels out here.

In my case, if I was guaranteed a 40 hour a week job working at a fast food restaurant, I would take it in a heartbeat.

I am currently taking care of my elderly mother college age daughter on $213 a week after taxes. Do you know how far that goes? I have to pay rent, electric bills, and put food on the table. I am a single mother. How am I supposed to live?

I sit in a bedroom away from my mother and daughter and cry because I feel I have failed by family and we are headed for ruin. We already lost the family home due to unscrupulous lenders. Now I am one rent check away from being homeless.

Please, I am begging you to be my voice and the voice of the unemployed in Washington.

Again, these are people who want to work. Some of my colleagues, some of the 41 who vote no consistently--we have tried week after week to bring this legislation to a vote--seem to think unemployment is welfare. It is not welfare. Many of the letters I get are from people who worked in the same job 20 and 30 years and lost that job and are trying to find work, as they are required to under the law. If you draw unemployment benefits, you are required to continue to look for work. You send out resumes, make visits to the plant, the office, or restaurant to try to get a job.

Every one of these workers paid in. This is not welfare; this is insurance. Every one of these workers paid into the unemployment insurance fund, and now when they are unemployed, they are deserving of collecting on their insurance, if you will.

Rebecca from Lorain County--that is the county in which I live in west Cleveland--works for Catholic Charities helping the unemployed:

My job is trying to find resources for the people in need. Every day I am deluged with requests for rental and mortgage assistance by many who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have not been able to find other employment.

One gentleman in particular is an unemployed steelworker of over 25 years who is raising a 2-year-old son by himself. His home is about to be foreclosed on and his employment benefits have run out. What else can he do? What can I do to assist him?

I look across the aisle when we are all in this Chamber and I think: 41 people voted against the extension of unemployment benefits. I think all of us are a bit too isolated in this job. We are paid well. We get a lot of attention. We all have good staffs, fairly large staffs of 40, 50, 60 people both in Washington and our States, in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Lorain. I don't know that we talk with enough people who have been in a situation that she writes about the steelworker--25 years and raising a 2-year-old son by himself.

Lisa from Cuyahoga County is taking care of her elderly mother and college-age daughter and already lost her home. I know empathy is in short supply in this world and particularly in the Senate. I wish each of us would read these letters and sit down and talk with somebody such as Lisa who first lost her job. Then she lost her health care. Then she has to explain to her daughter: Honey, we are not going to be able to stay in this house much longer because we cannot afford the rent--or got foreclosed.

Mom, where are we going to live?

I don't know yet.

Am I going to be able to go to the same grade school I go to now?

I don't know yet, honey, if that is going to happen.

How are we going to move? How are we going to move our stuff?

I don't know. We have to figure that out.

These are questions people such as us do not have to answer very often, are not faced with. If my 41 colleagues would sit down and listen to people who deal with these problems, who experience these problems, it might be a different situation.

The last letter I will read is from Marjorie from Summit County. That is in the Akron area:

I have been unemployed since January. My husband lost his job shortly before that. We are both college graduates. My husband has a master's degree.

Since we are both 61 years of age, employers are not hiring us because we are not the right fit for the position because we are either overqualified and/or too old.

Our house is on the market because we are reaching a point where we will be unable to make mortgage payments.

We have always done the right thing raising our children and being responsible citizens. But now we can't even keep a roof over our heads.

Something is not right when people make generalizations--as they are doing now--about people like us who want to work, who want to take care of themselves, and who are tired of being shunned because we are ``one of those people.''

We do not like the deficit growth, but we paid our taxes, and we did not create this recession.

Please share our story with those who are in a position to, at least, help us with something.

I don't know Marjorie, but I received this letter from her. I know from every indication that she and her husband have worked their whole lives. They are highly educated. Both have college degrees. One has a master's degree. They are not people who are unmotivated. They have lived in this house a long time. They do not want to sell their house, but they do not have much choice.

Why can't 60 of us, with these sometimes dysfunctional Senate rules, with just one person from the other side of the aisle, one Republican, join in voting, or a couple of them come over here and vote for this extension so we can get the 60 votes we need? They are only going to get $300 a week in unemployment benefits. Most of these people have paid into these funds for 10, 20, 30 years, never collecting anything. But they are only going to get $300 a week.

They are not going to be rich. It is not so much money that they will think: I don't want to bother going to work. I don't want to keep looking for a job. They have to keep looking for a job.

It is the right thing to do morally. It is the right thing to do because of the values we hold dear in this country. It is the right thing to do for economic reasons. As Senator McCain's chief economic adviser in his Presidential race said: Nothing stimulates the economy more than putting this money into the community in Ravenna or Mansfield or Warren or Findlay and getting this generation of economic activity which will help to create more jobs and help to get us out of this recession.

I implore again my colleagues to support the extension of unemployment benefits.

Madam President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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