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Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, Federal emergency unemployment benefits are going to expire on December 28 unless we do something to stop it.
Right now, there are 11 million Americans out of work through no fault of their own.
They are trying to find work, and they rely on unemployment insurance to help them keep food on the table and keep a roof over their heads and their families' heads, while they search for a new job.
And now, over 1 million people who are trying to find work stand to lose their unemployment insurance on December 28 because Congress has not acted.
Let me repeat that: Just 3 days after Christmas, 1 million people will lose a critical source of income while they look for work because of us.
Letting Federal unemployment insurance expire would be devastating for families all across the country.
I have heard from many of my constituents in Michigan on just how bad this will be, and how it will affect their families.
There are stories throughout Michigan and across our country.
It is astounding that Congress would even consider letting this expire, given that unemployment rates in many States are higher today than they were in 2008 when we passed this law.
In June of 2008, when the President signed this law, the national unemployment rate was under 6 percent. Today, it is 7 percent.
Even though we are seeing a number of great things happening in Michigan, we are still struggling to create enough jobs for everyone who needs one.
And because of that, Michigan just moved back into a position where, as a State with a high percentage of people out of work, Federal emergency unemployment benefits have been extended to 36 weeks.
This means that people in Michigan who are trying to find a job get a few more weeks to find something before they lose this critical lifeline.
But not if we let it expire.
The story is the same in many States across the country.
Today, 46 out of the 50 states, including Michigan, have higher unemployment rates than they did when this law went into effect.
While we are seeing some positive signs in the economic numbers, there are still almost 11 million Americans out of work.
That is far too many. There are three people who are looking for work for every 1 job available.
And if we don't act, if we don't extend this critical lifeline, then over 43,000 people in Michigan--and over 1 million longterm unemployed people across the country--will face an uncertain future.
We are six days from Christmas; six days from our children waking up and running to the Christmas tree to see what Santa brought them.
And the question facing thousands of families in Michigan--facing Regina in Holland and Stephen in Dearborn--and over a million men and women across the country, is: Will there be anything under the tree on Christmas morning?
Will there be a house to sleep in on Christmas Eve?
Will there be food on the table tonight, or tomorrow night, or on Christmas night?
These are people who are out of work through no fault of their own.
People who have lost their jobs are already on the ropes.
They have already seen cuts to unemployment insurance that have made it harder to make ends meet.
And now Congress is threatening to pull the rug out from under them.
These are people who want to work, who are trying to work, and just need help getting by while they find a new job. Giving them the benefits they earned isn't a ``disservice''--it is a lifeline.
This is what little money families have to get by--and they spend it at the grocery store and to pay their bills.
Without this help, they could lose their homes to foreclosure.
At such a critical time in our economic recovery, we cannot afford another wave of foreclosures.
It is also important to note that this is unemployment insurance--people earned it by working, and in order to qualify for this assistance, you must be actively looking for a job every week.
Letting the Federal emergency unemployment benefits expire would hurt these families and would send a ripple effect through the economy.
Congress should be helping to create jobs, not pulling the rug out from under people looking for jobs.
There is no reason for this to happen. We can pass a bill to extend this critical help.
In the past, both parties have always worked together to continue emergency unemployment insurance when the economy is struggling.
This is not the time to pull the rug out from people looking for work.
I urge my colleagues to come together in a bipartisan way to extend unemployment insurance so our families--and the economy--do not suffer.
Again, I thank Senator Reed who has been such a champion on this issue. I have been proud to partner with him on behalf of over a million people who are trying to find work and will lose their unemployment benefits three days after Christmas, on December 28. I can't think of anything more devastating to families trying to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.
I also thank Senator Baucus for his leadership on this issue and congratulate him on his new opportunity for the future.
Specifically, let me read letters that I think tell it all from people in Michigan.
Regina from Holland writes:
I am begging you to extend unemployment insurance. I have been unemployed since June. I am almost done with my first tier of unemployment. I have been trying to find work. I am 59 years old, and that does not help in finding a job.
Madam President, let me say we have way too many women--we have way too many people who are in their 50s and in their 60s trying to find work and having a very difficult time for a number of reasons.
She goes on to say:
If you don't pass extensions, my family will only have my husband's Social Security check coming in, and we'll lose our home. I am really scared we will not have this money coming in after December 28th, and I don't know what we will do.
I also heard from Stephen in Dearborn who wrote me and said:
This December 28 deadline directly affects me and my family. I have been unemployed for 6 months. I have been struggling to keep things afloat for my wife and my two young children.
If these benefits cease at the end of the month, it will put us even closer to losing everything my wife and I have worked very hard for.
The reality is, even though the economy is getting better, we still have three people looking for every one job that is available. At one time it was five people, so we have made some progress. But the truth is we still have a situation where way too many people in Michigan and across the country--in fact, almost 11 million people are out of work, and we have three people fighting for every one job that is available.
We also still have challenges as it relates to matching up the jobs with the skills that people have. Not that people don't have skills, but they are different than the jobs that are available.
People going back to school, they want to work. We all want the dignity of financial independence and work. But too many people are struggling in an economy they did not create, a global economy they did not create.
If we do not act--if we do not support Senator Reed's motion--over 43,000 people in Michigan, over 1 million long-term unemployed people across the country will find themselves in a devastating situation right after Christmas. It makes no sense. I urge my colleagues to join together and do what we have done with Republican Presidents, Democratic Presidents, what we have done on a bipartisan basis over the years; and that is to make sure we have a lifeline for people who are needing temporary help while they look for work.
I thank the Chair.
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