As Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) was on the way to a Democratic Caucus policy hearing on long-term unemployment insurance today, she learned that Republicans, who control access to hearing rooms because of their majority status, had kicked the Members and many long-term unemployed, including the scheduled witnesses, out of the room. Instead, the Members and long-term unemployed went to the steps of the Capitol for a press conference. Today's hearing was a special priority for Norton because the District is tied with New Jersey in leading the country with 46.6% of its unemployed residents out of work for 27 weeks or longer.
"At a time when the long-term unemployment situation has become quite desperate, the Republican response is to kick Democrats and long-term unemployed Americans out of a House hearing room," said Norton. "Although the unemployment rate has ticked down slowly, some economists warn that the long-term unemployed are in danger of becoming a permanent underclass, as those unemployed for short periods of time are the first to be hired. The face and color of the long-term unemployed also has changed dramatically. Historically, they have been Americans with few skills and people from minority backgrounds. Today, they are everybody's next door neighbor."
Norton co-sponsored a bill to extend long-term unemployment insurance for a year, and when that bill did not move, she also signed onto a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) urging him to bring up in the House a Senate-passed bill to extend it just through the end of May. However, that bill shows no signs of being brought up in the House. Norton has been so concerned that Congress is putting the long-term unemployed on the backburner that last December she introduced her own bill to give a boost to the economy. The bill would give employers a $5,000 tax credit against their payroll tax liability for each new net person hired who has been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. "As more people reach 27 weeks of unemployment, we are at the point when nothing short of an incentive will get these Americans, most of them skilled victims of the Great Recession, back to work," Norton said.