Congresswoman Shelley Berkley today voted to extend vital unemployment assistance for Nevada families continuing to struggle at a time when the Silver State's jobless rate remains above 14%. In a speech from the House floor, Berkley outlined her support for the legislation extending aid for qualifying unemployed Americans in Las Vegas and nationwide. The House approved the bill on a vote of 272 to 152. View Berkley's full statement here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_o0ci6VSRA.
"Let me tell you something about the State of Nevada. We have the highest unemployment rate in the country, 14.5% unemployed. Our fellow citizens with no jobs to go to and no jobs to seek. We have the highest mortgage foreclosure rate in the country. Nevadans are suffering. It has taken far too long for this Congress to act. Unemployment benefits are not a handout. It's not welfare. It's giving a helping hand to our fellow citizens that need it the most, to get them where they are now, which is without a job, to where they're going to be when there's an economic recovery," Berkley said.
Berkley also emphasized the positive impact of stimulus funding for Nevada under the Recovery Act, including payments to disabled veterans and seniors, and billons of dollars for transportation projects in the Las Vegas Valley and for Clark County teachers and classrooms.
"Let me tell you what the stimulus package did for us. It put $700 billion into our education system. I'm not talking about only paying teachers and keeping them employed, I'm talking about the possibility of having to close schools," Berkley said. "It put $500 billion into Medicaid so that poor children and poor adults aren't going to be out on the streets dying for lack of medical care. Our unemployment compensation trust fund was broke, zero, zippo. We were able to put money into that. And in addition to that, the construction projects that came directly from the stimulus package. Not public, but private contractors bidding on these projects and then hiring construction workers. The downtown transportation center, the park and ride in Centennial Hills, the Boulder Highway Transportation Center and so many more came directly from this stimulus bill," said Berkley. "In addition to that, we had a middle-income tax cut. We had $250 that went to every Social Security recipient. $250 went to every disabled veteran in Nevada. We welcomed this money. We needed this money. It kept us afloat."
Republican opposition has repeatedly stalled the efforts of Berkley and her Congressional colleagues to extend unemployment benefits for Nevadans, leaving families to worry about rent, food and the ability to cover their bills.
"Again and again, the majority of Republicans in Congress have turned their backs on Nevada families who are in search of jobs by opposing the extension of these unemployment payments to those struggling just to afford a loaf of bread and desperately hoping they can stay off the streets," said Berkley. "When I am home in southern Nevada, I talk to men and women who have worked their whole lives and suddenly lost a job through no fault of their own. And I see the fear in their eyes when they have to worry that no more assistance will be available to them through an unemployment insurance system they have supported for years."