Every week since December 21, 2003, according to the Department of Labor, up to 90,000 long.term unemployed workers lose federal unemployment benefits because Congress did not extend the Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation (TEUC). Unemployed workers who have exhausted their 26 weeks of unemployment benefits are without assistance.
Unemployment insurance was created to help assist workers who through no fault of their own have lost their jobs. Workers who are unemployed as a result of a strike or walkout, who left the job without "good cause," or who were discharged due to "misconduct" are not eligible for unemployment insurance. Built into the Unemployment Insurance tax system is money set aside to aid workers when the national economy has a cyclical downturn. However it must be triggered by Congressional action.
The current economic recovery has had little effect thus far on the poor labor market conditions. The availability of jobs, the number of persons seeking those jobs, and the severity of the nationwide long-term unemployment problem are troubling. Currently, there are nearly three unemployed persons for every job opening. In November and December 2003, payrolls expanded by only 44,000 jobs, while the working-age population rose by more than half a million. Because of this, it has been getting harder, not easier, for the unemployed to find jobs. The unemployment rate fell in December 2003 only because people gave up looking for work, not because more people were finding jobs.
In November 2003, Cardinal McCarrick, chairman of the USCCB Domestic Policy Committee wrote to all Members of Congress urging them to extend the federally funded unemployment benefits. As pastors, we know the human cost of joblessness and the social consequences of inadequate benefits. Pope John Paul II points out that society and the state must protect the worker either through economic policies aimed at ensuring balanced growth and full employment or through unemployment insurance... Obviously new jobs are the best answer for those without work, but, in the meantime, we truly owe these workers some measure of compassion and justice gained in part by simply extending the federal benefits in the unemployment insurance system.
We believe that coming to the aid of unemployed workers and their families is not only good for the economy; it is the right thing to do. Please act now to avoid the tragic consequences of millions of workers with literally no means of support.
- to extend the federally-funded unemployment benefits for at least another 13 weeks;
- to seriously consider providing additional benefits to the one million workers who already have exhausted their extended benefits.
Thomas Shellabarger at the USCCB, 202.541.3189, firstname.lastname@example.org