November 22, 2002
The President of the United States
The White house
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I write on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to express our concern for the workers and their families who will lose federal benefits when the current federal unemployment compensation program expires on December 28, 2002. Just three days after we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, we should not allow fellow Americans to be left without hope and support. "If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?" (James 2:15-16)
I ask you to act now and urge the House of Representatives to take up this urgent matter. With the Senate already adjourned, they are the only ones who can prevent this from happening. Unless the House--which meets as the 107th Congress for the last time tomorrow, November 22--concurs with the Senate bill and extends the program, no worker can be assured they will be eligible for even a single week of extended benefits in the new year. Indeed, workers who just began receiving their extra weeks of benefits will be cut off completely.
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 owe these workers some measure of compassion and justice by 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 hundreds of thousands of workers without the vital means of support.
With every good wish I am,
Bishop of Belleville
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops