Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Jobless Sheetmetal Worker Urges Congress to Extend Unemployment Insurance

House Republicans tonight voted (234-193) to cut more than in half the number of weeks jobless workers can collect unemployment insurance (UI) benefits next year. The bill [1] also cuts pay for public employees, cuts preventive health services, reduces premium assistance for low- and middle-income individuals buying health insurance and raises premiums for many Medicare beneficiaries.
new report [2] from the National Employment Law Project (NELP [3]) says the legislation:
abandons millions of U.S. workers and those communities hardest hit by the most severe jobs crisis since the Great Depression.
While the legislation extends the federal UI program that is set to expire Dec. 31, the huge reduction in weeks of benefits and other changes in the UI program are “reckless and irresponsible,” says NELP Executive Director Christine Owens.

To jobseekers and states hit hard by long-term unemployment, this proposal offers a cold cynical shrug. Anyone serious about helping workers and businesses get going again needs to know that is neither a serious nor acceptable way forward.
The bill also extends the payroll tax cut for workers and employers, but rather than financing it with a small surtax on multimillionaires as a Senate version does, it cuts federal workers’ pay and imposes higher health care premium costs for low- and middle-income families and seniors.
The Republican bill, says the Obama administration,
puts the burden of paying for the bill on working families, while giving a free pass to the wealthiest and to big corporations by protecting their loopholes and subsidies….Instead of working together to find a balanced approach that will actually pass both houses of the Congress, H.R. 3630 instead represents a choice to refight old political battles.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says [4]:
House Republicans obviously have more sympathy for millionaires than for the jobless.
If the UI program is not renewed, 2 million workers will lose their benefits next month and 6 million in 2012. Last week [5], Shonda Sneed, an engineering worker from Yellow Springs, Ohio, who has been unemployed on and off for the past two years, traveled to Washington, D.C., to urge Congress to extend the UI program with no strings attached (see video).
My unemployment benefits have been my lifeline. They are what’s keeping me and my mother off the street.

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