Sanders: Extend Unemployment Insurance

WASHINGTON, October 21 – As the Vermont unemployment rate for September hit 6.7 percent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called today for immediate action by Congress to extend unemployment insurance benefits.

Sanders is a cosponsor of legislation that would help the almost 2 million Americans who are in danger of losing their benefits by the year's end by extending jobless benefits for a minimum of 14 weeks in all states and by 20 weeks in states with unemployment rates of 8.5 percent or higher

An estimated 1,860 Vermonters will use up their unemployment benefits by the end of the year, according to a recent report by the National Employment Law Project.

“In the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and at a time when long-term unemployment is extremely high, we cannot turn our backs on jobless Americans by letting their unemployment insurance expire,” Sanders said. 

“In my view, Congress should pass a reasonable extension in unemployment benefits so that workers who have lost their jobs during this severe recession get the help they deserve while they try to find new jobs to support their families,” the senator added.

The Vermont jobless number for September ticked down from 6.8 percent in August, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, but the number was substantially worse than the 4.8 percent jobless rate in Vermont during September, 2008. Nationwide, unemployment for September stood at 9.8 percent.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has tried to bring up the legislation for a Senate vote, but Republicans have objected. The House last month approved legislation that gives 13 weeks of extended benefits, but only in 27 states that have unemployment rates of at least 8.5 percent.
 
The bill to extend benefits would cost $2.4 billion, an amount covered by also extending the federal unemployment tax through June 30, 2011. According to the Congressional Budget Office, every $1 spent on unemployment benefits has generated $1.61 in economic activity.

Vermonters are eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits for no more than 72 weeks.  The State of Vermont provides 26 weeks of insurance, followed by 33 weeks of federal aid – which was extended as part of the stimulus package –, followed by another 13 weeks of state coverage.  The eligibility length differs between states.