Statement by Gene B. Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council
This New Year’s Day, there is likely less joy and more fear and distress in the homes of 1.3 million Americans who this week have seen their unemployment insurance suddenly cut off – a vital lifeline that these Americans depend on as they fight to find a job. There would be no better New Year’s resolution for Congress to make today than to commit to making the first new legislation for the new year the restoration of emergency unemployment insurance for those who have this week just been cut off.
Failing to extend emergency unemployment insurance through 2014 will negatively impact 14 million Americans – the 4.9 million workers who will see unemployment insurance cut off and the approximately 9 million additional family members they are supporting. But if Congress does the right thing and acts to extend emergency unemployment benefits through 2014, it is estimated to lead to 200,000 jobs and a fifth of a point of additional economic growth. This emergency unemployment insurance is temporary and by design will taper off as the unemployment falls around the nation.
The claims by some that those experiencing long-term unemployment are solely at fault are belied by the countless accounts of the names, faces and stories of responsible Americans among those 1.3 million who have worked hard their whole lives and are fighting to find a new job to support their families. Because these workers are only eligible for this emergency assistance if they are actively looking for work, extension will help encourage many of the long-term unemployed to keep at it even if they are getting discouraged.
We as Americans can choose to have each other’s backs when we face serious spells of long-term unemployment. In more than 50 years, we have never cut off emergency unemployment insurance when the rate of long-term unemployment was even above 50% of its current level, even though none of those recessions were nearly as deep as the one we are now recovering from. Serious studies make clear that those who are long-term unemployed face serious barriers to getting new jobs than can lead to lasting damage to their economic future. At a time when we as a nation should be moving forward in our efforts to help those who are long-term unemployed find new jobs, we should not take a harsh step backwards by abruptly cutting off their unemployment insurance.
The President strongly supports Majority Leader Harry Reid’s commitment to bring the bipartisan Reed-Heller bill for a vote the very first day the Senate returns on January 6th. By temporarily extending emergency unemployment insurance for three months, this bipartisan bill will provide benefits for over 2 million Americans when they need it most, and we urge every member of Congress to support this vitally important bill.