Washington, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter voted today in favor of legislation that would immediately provide extended unemployment benefits to workers whose unemployment benefits have run out. The measure was taken up by the House of Representatives as a non-controversial measure, requiring a 2/3 majority for passage. The bill, however, fell just 3 votes shy of the number of votes needed for approval.
The legislation, the Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation Act of 2008 (H.R. 5749), would have provided an additional 13 weeks of benefits to workers who had exhausted their currently-mandated 26 weeks. In states with high rates of unemployment – over 6% – the legislation would have offered a total of 26 additional weeks of coverage. New Hampshire, which has an unemployment rate of 3.8%, would not fall into that category.
"I am very disappointed that anyone would vote against this bill," Shea-Porter said. "We're in a tough economy and it's going to take people longer to find jobs. Anyone who has ever gone without work knows why it's important to back this bill."
"We need to help people who can't find work," Shea-Porter said. "They still need to pay their rent and put food on the table for their children."
Shea-Porter expressed her support for the bill during a press conference with House Democratic Leadership. Participating in the event were Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, Congressman Sander Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, and Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), Chairman of the Democratic Caucus.
Last week, the government announced that the unemployment rate in May jumped to 5.5% -- the biggest one-month increase in over 20 years. It is estimated that 8.5 million Americans are currently unemployed. This number may understate the number of Americans who are actually out of work -- unemployment statistics do not count workers who have given up looking for work or who have failed to apply for unemployment benefits.
The bill would not result in any change in the federal deficit or cost to the taxpayers. Funding for the extended benefits would be drawn from the federal unemployment insurance trust funds, which exist for the purpose of providing assistance to workers who are impacted by a weak economy.
House Democratic leaders pledged to take the bill up again this week under rules which require only a majority vote for passage.