Senate Votes to Extend Unemployment Insurance

The Senate voted late Wednesday for a 14-week extension of unemployment insurance benefits. The extension would help about 1,800 Vermonters whose benefits were to have run out by the end of this year.  Job hunters in states with the worst unemployment would get six additional weeks of benefits. Senator Bernie Sanders said workers who have lost their jobs during the worst recession since the 1930s have remained unemployed an average of 27 weeks – longer than at any time since the end of World War II.

The House later this week is expected to finish action on the bill and send it to President Obama. The measure also would expand an $8,000 tax credit for homebuyers.

“What is extremely important to understand when we look at the economy today is that the official unemployment statistics do not reflect the real reality of what's going on in our economy, because official statistics do not include people who have given up looking for work,” Senator Bernie Sanders said in a Senate floor speech.

“The reality is that if you add those who are officially unemployed to the number of people who have given up looking for work and the people who are working part-time when they want to work full-time, what you're looking at is 17 percent of working-age Americans today who are in that category. It adds up to 26 million Americans, an astronomical number,” Sanders added.

‘The issue that we are dealing with right now has to address the crisis of long-term unemployment. It's one thing to lose your job and get another  job a few weeks late. It is another thing not to be able to  find a job after month after month, and there are millions of Americans in that category, Sanders added. “Today 5.4 million Americans have been unemployed for over six months, the highest on record. The average length of unemployment is  now 27 weeks. That's over six months. That's over half a year. That is the longest since the end of World War II.”

“Anybody who thinks this  recession is over has obviously not talked to real people.  Millions of people are hurting. Millions of people are frightened, and they're looking for -- to us for some immediate help in terms of extending unemployment benefits,” Sanders concluded.

Unemployment benefits average $308 per week.  Ordinarily, the payments expire after six months. During the worst recession since the 1930s, however, Congress already had extended benefits to help the unusually high number of long-term unemployed.

Nationwide, unemployment in September stood  at 9.8 percent, the highest since 1983.  Economists expect the number to climb to 9.9 percent when the Labor Department will release the latest jobless data for October on Friday morning.

To watch the senator’s floor statement, click here.