After overcoming weeks of opposition by the Republican minority, the U.S. House of Representatives gave its final approval today to extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans. Senate Republicans blocked the extension for more than 7 weeks that caused 2.5 million American families to lose the benefits they earned. This bill extends the Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits programs through November 30, 2010, and retroactively restores benefits to some people who had lost their benefits.
"It has been frustrating to watch Republicans block a benefit that helps working families who are out of work through no fault of their own," said Oberstar. "I am greatly disappointed that congressional Republicans were willing to turn their backs on working families because of the cost of the legislation, and yet, these same elected officials have been advocating for tax cuts for the wealthy totaling over $500 billion."
Extending unemployment benefits is not only good for the unemployed; it is also one of the best and fastest ways to stimulate the economy according to analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Unemployment benefits were responsible for creating more than 1 million jobs since the recession started, and adding almost 2 percent to the gross domestic product according to the Economic Policy Institute. In fact, every dollar in unemployment benefits creates $1.61 in economic activity according to Economist and former John McCain advisor, Mark Zandi.
"This is money that pays mortgages, buys groceries and puts gas in the car so people can continue to look for work," said Oberstar. "If we can spend $12 billion a month to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can certainly spend a fraction of that to help our own citizens in the U.S."