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Mr. HOLT. I thank the gentleman from Maine for yielding.
Mr. Speaker, this is a simple motion. We want to ensure that unemployment funds are used for those who are unemployed. We want to make sure that unemployment funds, as promised, are given to those who are unemployed. It shouldn't be a partisan issue. There are unemployed Republicans. There are unemployed Democrats. There are unemployed Independents. Our motion says to them, We're not turning away from you, but evidently, it seems to be a partisan issue.
Let me repeat in clear English what this means when they talk about waivers. In clear English, it means that this bill, the House Republican bill, would allow States to divert unemployment funds for other purposes. States already have ample flexibility. They say they need flexibility, but ``flexibility'' really is a euphemism for denying benefits. It's an invitation to deny benefits. Right now, States are required to spend unemployment insurance funds solely on unemployment benefits. They must pay the benefits when they're due. They may not condition eligibility on issues beyond the fact of unemployment and cause a person's unemployment. Unless we accomplish what the gentleman from Maine is trying to accomplish here, this legislation would circumvent these basic protections.
Of course, it's fine for States to innovate and to pursue innovative ideas to help people get jobs; but for heaven's sake, don't experiment with the livelihoods of people who have lost their jobs. It's called unemployment insurance. No, it's not taking money from hardworking Americans. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard that here on the floor. Insurance is for those people who never expected they would be unemployed. I'll show you thousands of people in New Jersey--and I'm sure my friend here could show you thousands in Maine--who never thought they'd be unemployed for a week or a month or 6 months or 99 weeks. There are more people who have been unemployed for 99 weeks in the past year than at any time since the Great Depression.
Taking money away from hardworking Americans, I couldn't believe it. I never thought I would hear this on the floor.
Unemployment insurance is not welfare. It is provided to people who have worked hard. In effect, they've paid into an insurance fund. They've lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and they have to actively seek work to be eligible. Unemployment insurance also helps the public at large, the economy at large. It's not just helping those families--and it certainly does help those families: those spouses, those children. As my friend from Maine pointed out, the unemployment insurance money isn't stashed under a mattress. The family spends that money, and it helps the economy at large.
Even with the minuscule improvements in the economy recently, long-term unemployment remains up around record levels. There are millions of fewer jobs in the economy today than before the recession started.
Jeffrey from Plainsboro, New Jersey, wrote me:
I was wondering if the extension for unemployment benefits will be extended. My wife has been unemployed for close to 2 years, and despite trying to get a job, we see her 99-week deadline fast approaching. I am a car salesman who works on commission, so you can imagine, business is down. Please let me know if there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks.
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