Release: Unemployment Benefits Extension Clears Senate Hurdle

WASHINGTON, July 20 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted today with a 60-to-40 Senate majority to overcome a Republican filibuster and clear the way to extend unemployment benefits for an estimated 2.5 million unemployed Americans.

The extension would restore benefits for 860 Vermonters, according to the Vermont Department of Labor.

“In the midst of the worst recession since the 1930s, it would be immoral to turn our backs on millions of Americans who, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs and are unable to find new ones,” Sanders said.

Sanders contrasted support by Republican senators for tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans with their virtual lockstep opposition to the emergency unemployment assistance and other efforts to help the middle class. “I am particularly disturbed that while every Republican wants to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for millionaire and billionaire families, only two were prepared to stand up for families that are really hurting.”

In June, 6,000 Vermonters were unemployed for at least six months, according to the Vermont Labor Department. Of those, 4,100 were jobless for more than one year.

Altogether, the Vermont Labor Department announced today that 21,600 Vermonters were jobless in June, creating an unemployment rate of 6 percent. The rate is a slight decline from the 6.2 percent level in May.

Thousands of Vermonters who have found jobs, however, are forced to work part-time. The state Labor Department estimates 21,700 Vermonters held part-time jobs last month because full-time jobs weren’t available.

While the slight decline in the jobless rate shows some signs of a recovering economy, the state’s shrinking labor force may indicate that some are giving up on looking for a job because of a sour economy. Vermont’s labor force shrunk by 2,000 people from May to June, according to the Labor Department’s preliminary figures. The declining labor force creates a lower jobless rate because of the way the rate is determined.

In June 2009, the state unemployment level was 7.2 percent and 25,900 were unemployed.

To watch the senator's floor speech, click here.