US bishops' committee voices support for extension of unemployment benefits


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development is urging the faithful to support a new unemployment extension bill which is set to be voted on this week in the Senate.

The legislation has been a source of contention between Democrats and Republicans as the latter party has blocked unemployment bill HR4213, citing concerns over a lack of funding for the initiative.

Democrats attempted to garner 60 votes to invoke cloture and bring the bill up for a vote, but the recent death of Sen. Robert Byrd – a West Virginian Democrat who supported the bill –  added uncertainty to the situation.

The USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development issued an email alert on July 19, writing that as early as July 20, “the Senate will vote on extending unemployment insurance benefits through November.”

“Sixty votes are needed for cloture, which will stop a threatened filibuster, and allow the bill to be signed into law,” read the statement. “In the last 48 days, nearly 2 million families have lost the financial support afforded them by unemployment insurance as a minority in Congress have refused to extend benefits.”

Stressing the need for Catholics to support their senators in voting for the legislation, the bishops went on the explain that “the recession that began in 2007” is “one of the worst economic periods for American families since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

“The national unemployment rate continues to hover near ten percent; 15 million Americans are officially unemployed; and 44 percent (six million people) have been out of work for more than six months.”

“This is the highest number of long-term unemployed since the United States began keeping that data in 1948,” the bishops underscored. “For every job opening, there are five applicants.”

“Since the recession began, the U.S. economy has lost 8.5 million jobs, which means with new entrants to the workforce, eleven million new jobs must be created to return to the pre-recession unemployment rate of five percent,” the statement added. “Although the economy has begun creating jobs, it will take a long time for jobs to be available for all workers who want them.”

Despite the challenges the unemployment legislation has faced, political analysts expect that given the fact that Carte Goodwin – Sen. Byrd's replacement who will be sworn in on July 20 – is a Democrat, the 60 votes needed for cloture will be obtained.

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