Letter to House and Senate Leadership - Unemployment

Dear House and Senate Leaders,

While our economy is showing signs of recovery with the addition of 171,000 jobs in October 2012 and the unemployment under 8%, over 12 million Americans remain unemployed. The long-term unemployment rate -- the share of unemployed workers who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer -- was over 40% throughout the entirety of 2010 and 2011, and persists at a rate of 40.6% in October 2012. This is an unprecedented level of long-term unemployment; the previous peak, in June 1983, was just 26%.

Unemployment benefits are a proven lifeline to families that they rely on to help pay for necessities such as rent, groceries, and utilities. Expansions to the unemployment insurance program enacted in the Recovery Act and subsequent legislation in 2009 and 2010 lifted over 3.2 million Americans out of poverty in 2010, and 2.3 million in 2011 including over 600,000 children.

As House and Senate leadership negotiate legislation addressing expiring tax provisions, cuts mandated by sequestration, and the Medicare sustainable growth rate, we urge you to include a robust extension of federal unemployment benefits for American workers. Given the unprecedented levels of long-term unemployment our nation currently faces, a full extension of unemployment benefits through 2013 should represent the minimum acceptable extension in any year-end compromise legislation. Should Congress fail to act by the last week of December, over two million workers will immediately lose their federal unemployment benefits

Disconcertingly, federal unemployment benefits were already reduced earlier this year; the total cap on combined state and federal unemployment benefits was cut from 99 weeks at the beginning of 2012 to 73 weeks currently. Additionally, the need to extend federal unemployment benefits is amplified by unprecedented cuts to both the amount and duration of unemployment benefits made by a number of states.

We also have serious concerns about proposals that divert unemployment funds from direct recipients or that subject recipients to new drug testing and education requirements which create barriers for our nation's unemployed. We encourage House and Senate leadership to ensure that states use their unemployment funds, as they have historically done, to compensate recipients and not for any other purpose, and reject efforts to create new barriers for eligible individuals seeking unemployment benefits.

Reducing federal unemployment benefits would plunge hundreds of thousands of Americans into poverty and jeopardize our nation's economic recovery. With millions of American workers relying on these benefits to make ends meet as our nation's economic recovery continues to take hold, now is not the time to roll back this critical lifeline. We urge you to come together and ensure that unemployment benefits remain available to American workers when they need it most.

Sincerely,

Barbara Lee
Member of Congress

Sander Levin
Member of Congress

John Conyers
Member of Congress

Eleanor Holmes Norton
Member of Congress

Laura Richardson
Member of Congress

Hank Johnson
Member of Congress

Gary Peters
Member of Congress

Pete Stark
Member of Congress

Lucille Roybal-Allard
Member of Congress

Barney Frank
Member of Congress

Donna M. Christensen
Member of Congress

Gwen Moore
Member of Congress

Sam Farr
Member of Congress

Lynn Woolsey
Member of Congress

Mike Honda
Member of Congress

Eddie Bernice Johnson
Member of Congress

Marcia Fudge
Member of Congress

Janice Schakowsky
Member of Congress

Joe Baca
Member of Congress

Keith Ellison
Member of Congress

Melvin L. Watt
Member of Congress

Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress

Raúl Grijalva
Member of Congress

Bennie G. Thompson
Member of Congress

Al Green
Member of Congress

Henry Waxman
Member of Congress

Bob Filner
Member of Congress

Peter DeFazio
Member of Congress

Sheila Jackson Lee
Member of Congress

Danny K. Davis
Member of Congress

Yvette Clarke
Member of Congress

Charles Rangel
Member of Congress

Judy Chu
Member of Congress

Robert A. Brady
Member of Congress

James P. McGovern
Member of Congress

Albio Sires
Member of Congress

Suzanne Bonamici
Member of Congress

Dennis Kucinich
Member of Congress

Chellie Pingree
Member of Congress

Steve Cohen
Member of Congress

Dale Kildee
Member of Congress

Ben Ray Lujan
Member of Congress

Rosa L. DeLauro
Member of Congress

David Cicilline
Member of Congress

Hansen Clarke
Member of Congress

George Miller
Member of Congress

Joseph Crowley
Member of Congress

Maxine Waters
Member of Congress

Corrine Brown
Member of Congress

Sanford Bishop
Member of Congress

John Lewis
Member of Congress

James R. Langevin
Member of Congress

Elijah E. Cummings
Member of Congress

John F. Tierney
Member of Congress

Carolyn Maloney
Member of Congress

David Loebsack
Member of Congress

Karen Bass
Member of Congress

Anna Eshoo
Member of Congress

G. K. Butterfield
Member of Congress

Edolphus Towns
Member of Congress

Michael Doyle
Member of Congress

John Dingell
Member of Congress

Terri Sewell
Member of Congress

Betty McCollum
Member of Congress

Bobby Rush
Member of Congress

Janice Hahn
Member of Congress

David Curson
Member of Congress

Lois Capps
Member of Congress

Gene Green
Member of Congress

Jerry McNerney
Member of Congress

Peter Welch
Member of Congress

Michael Michaud
Member of Congress

Ed Markey
Member of Congress

Jerrold Nadler
Member of Congress

Pedro Pierluisi
Member of Congress

William R. Keating
Member of Congress

Robert C. "Bobby" Scott
Member of Congress

José E. Serrano
Member of Congress

Rubén Hinojosa
Member of Congress

Doris O. Matsui
Member of Congress