Members of the Press:
Last Friday, Congresswoman Shea-Porter sent a letter urging Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of the United States Senate to stop the Senate stalling and to extend unemployment benefits immediately. In her letter, Shea-Porter said that unemployment benefits are about to expire and that it would be an emergency for families. This legislation would extend unemployment benefits through April 5th, and includes a one month extension of the COBRA premium assistance program originally passed in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. On Thursday, February 25th, the House passed the Temporary Extension Act by a voice vote.
“Millions of Americans rely on these benefits and it would be devastating if they expired,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “Many people who have lost their job are struggling to just get by. This is not a partisan issue and it needs to be fixed now.”
According to the Department of Labor, more than 1 million Americans could exhaust their unemployment benefits if an extension is not passed. The House has voted multiple times to extend unemployment benefits but the Senate has failed to act.
A full copy of the letter is below:
The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader, U.S. Senate
S-221, The Capitol
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader, U.S. Senate
S-231, The Capitol
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:
I write today to stress to you the importance of passing an emergency extension of unemployment benefits before they expire on February 28th. I understand that there is some debate in the Senate as to whether the extension of these benefits should be considered emergency spending.
There should be no doubt that the expiration of unemployment benefits at the end of this month would, in fact, be an emergency for millions of Americans who currently rely on these benefits. The Department of Labor has estimated that up to 2.7 million Americans could exhaust their benefits by May 1 if an extension is not passed. For these individuals and families, the loss of a job is an emergency. Allowing the clock to run out on these benefits while the "emergency" nature is discussed in the Senate is unconscionable. I understand, and these individuals and families in my District and in your states understand, that the expiration of these extended benefits would create another unnecessary and avoidable emergency.
Unemployment does not discriminate - it inflicts pain on everyone. We must all now work together in a bipartisan manner to provide this critical assistance to individuals and families in their time of need. Last night, the House passed a bill to extend this and other crucial programs, including COBRA coverage. I urge the Senate to act on that measure as soon as possible to prevent a disruption in benefits.
Thank you for your consideration and swift action.