Witness Wednesdays: Stories of the Long-Term Unemployed to Be Read on Capitol Hill

Starting tomorrow and continuing through the end of July, political, faith, labor and nonprofit leaders will gather outside the Capitol each Wednesday to read and listen to the stories that more than 2,000 Americans have shared.

These stories will make vivid and visible the senseless hardship and unnecessary struggle that hard-working Americans have been exposed to as a result of political obstruction.

Earlier this week, the number of Americans who have been denied access to Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program passed 3 million, and that number will continue to rise unless the program is extended.

When President Bush signed a bill to extend emergency unemployment in June 2008, Republicans and Democrats agreed that an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent, in an economy where the average duration of unemployment was 17.1 weeks, was unacceptable.

The latest jobs numbers tell us that – even without counting workers who have left the jobs market without finding employment – the unemployment rate is 6.3 percent, and the average duration of an individual’s unemployment is 34.5 weeksalmost nine months.  Workers are facing a still-brutal jobs market, and families are falling between the cracks.

We know that extending emergency unemployment benefits is not a Republican or Democratic issue – it is not an issue of right and left – it is an issue of right and wrong.

To give a voice to the millions of Americans who have suffered as a handful of powerful House members forced an unemployment extension bill to expire, we will be reading aloud the stories from unemployed Americans from across the country, many of whom are readers of this blog. These folks are being directly squeezed by the jobs deficit and are from diverse backgrounds – they are teachers, iron workers, secretaries, engineers, food workers, nurses, financial analysts, and businessmen – united in their belief that America can do better than turning its back during people’s time of need. Join us as we stand together and call upon Congress to renew emergency unemployment benefits and allow those who have suffered to get back on their feet and back to work.

Interested in taking part in Witness Wednesdays: Voices of the Unemployed?

For Further Reading:

Unemployed Americans Kicked Out of Capitol, Forced to Share Their Stories OutsideThe Fine Print blog, May 10, 2014

Six Months after Emergency Unemployment Benefits Expired, 2.8 Million Americans Left BehindThe Fine Print blog, May 21, 2014

Witness Wednesdays: Stories of the Long-Term Unemployed to Be Read on Capitol HillThe Fine Print blog, June 10, 2014 

Bipartisan Unemployment Benefits Bills in Both HousesThe Fine Print blog, July 2, 2014

back to Blog

Thank you Jessica for writing another article for us! Thank you also to the Center For Effective Government for their continued support for the long term unemployed and the EUC cause!
Center For Effective Government quoted in article! Washington Post 6/10/14 Advocates renew efforts to urge Congress to extend unemployment benefits By Wesley Lowery, Tuesday, June 10, 11:57 AM E-mail the writer In December, Congress allowed federal unemployment benefits to expire, cutting off aid to more than 1 million people who had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. Since then, that number has tripled to 3 million Americans who would qualify for the jobless benefits, creating an economically marginalized and increasingly desperate subset of people struggling to make ends meet as the economy slowly recovers. (Charles Dharapak/AP) - Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) is leading a push in the House to extend unemployment benefits. Six months of political and legislative maneuvering by advocates to get the benefits extended have been unsuccessful. So a new grass-roots effort is taking shape to plead the case. Beginning this week, several groups will hold events on Capitol Hill each Wednesday through the summer in which members of Congress as well as union and faith leaders will urge lawmakers, particularly House Republicans, to extend the benefits. A deal brokered in the Senate earlier this year to do so has languished in the House, where the GOP leadership declined to bring it to a vote. President Obama, who has called for the passage of minimum wage and paycheck fairness bills — both of which failed in the Senate — has been less active in pushing for the renewal of federal unemployment benefits. He has not called on House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to urge a vote on the issue. Those who have lost their benefits have vowed to keep up the pressure on lawmakers. Many have turned to online communities for support and advice. Half a dozen Facebook pages and groups for the long-term unemployed have thousands of members. Articles about the stalled efforts to renew emergency jobless benefits often amass hundreds of comments, serving as message boards and chat rooms. One group, Emergency Unemployment Benefits Extension Now, has a Facebook page with 3,700 members. Asked to share their stories with The Washington Post, more than 200 members responded in less than in 24 hours. A 54-year-old security consultant from New York said he is living on $11 a day, having been out of work since 2013. A mother of four in Upstate New York noted that, with no money to pay for Internet service, her 15-year-old spends evenings sitting in a McDonald’s — which has free WiFi — to complete homework assignments. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the “long-term unemployed” as those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. According to the latest statistics from the bureau, more than 3.4 million Americans were considered long-term jobless as of May, out of a total of 9.8 million unemployed. “My husband and I wanted to live the American dream,” said Sandy LoBianco Ford, 53, who after years working as a bartender and waitress went back to school at age 42. She was ecstatic when she quickly found a “dream job” right out of school, working in computer-aided drafting and design. She and her husband began building the life they had envisioned: buying a house and new cars. But in June 2013, her company downsized, and LoBianco Ford was laid off. Under the federal unemployment system, someone who loses a job typically receives jobless benefits from the state for 26 weeks. But in 2008, Congress voted to provide additional aid that made checks available for as many as 99 weeks in the hardest-hit states. Last year, lawmakers cut the maximum benefit to 73 weeks. Then, at the end of December, Congress let federal aid lapse altogether. “Our government has never terminated unemployment benefits when a full 35 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for six months or more,” Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.), who is leading the unemployment extension push in the House, wrote in an op-ed published by Roll Call this week. “It’s cruel.” Even with monthly job reports signaling an improving economy, millions remain without work. And, the longer they stay jobless, economists say, the harder it becomes for them to find work. In the year since she last worked, LoBianco Ford has depleted her meager retirement fund. Soon, she said, she and her husband will have to sell at least one, maybe both, of their vehicles. Their credit is a shambles, and their two dogs go without flea medication and trips to the vet. “I pray every night that if we can just hold on a little longer, the bill will pass and people will be able to start digging out of this mess,” LoBianco Ford said. “We just need a little help to get us going in the right direction.” In March, after the Senate had voted on three times — and not passed — an extension to unemployment benefits, Boehner said he would not consider legislation that does not include job-creation measures. But then several Republicans joined with Democrats to pass a Senate bill that would renew the expired benefits. Some observers hoped that the bipartisan nature of the measure — which had the support of several prominent Republicans, including Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) — would spur movement in the House. The deal, brokered by Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) fueled speculation that Republican House leaders might relent on their insistence that any bill to extend the benefits must also include job creation measures. But no real political pressure on the House GOP ever materialized. Many of the jobless have grown increasingly frustrated, and the animosity and disdain for Boehner and the House Republicans have mounted. In April, Kimberly Rowe of Tennessee, a regular contributor to one of the Facebook groups, wrote that her husband, who had been out of work for more than a year, had killed himself. His depression, she wrote, stemmed from feelings of hopelessness because he had been unable to find a job and unable to provide for the family since December, when the unemployment checks stopped. “I blame this on our government,” Rowe wrote. “They don’t realize what this is doing to millions of people who are suffering.” Advocates say they will redouble efforts this summer to extend the benefits. The Wednesday “storytelling” events on the Hill will feature members of Congress — organizers have invited Democrats and Republicans — as well as faith and union leaders reading personal stories and anecdotes from the long-term unemployed. The first in this series, on Wednesday, will include Levin, several other Democratic lawmakers and officials from the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “Anytime we’re having these high levels of unemployment we’ve always had bipartisan passage of unemployment extension,” said Katherine McFate, president and chief executive of the Center for Effective Government. “If we can let the American public understand what is going on here, they can potentially put pressure on the elected officials.” And, in what advocates for the jobless are taking as a glimmer of hope, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters last week that he hopes Heller will soon be able to craft a new deal to renew the expired benefits. “He has talked about this at least once a week. What he’s doing is scrambling to get a few more Republicans,” Reid said. “Of course, anytime that Senator Heller makes a little progress on this, we’ll bring it back because people are just as desperate today as they were two months ago.”
Give us an oportunity U.S.
There are a lot of people like me that want to work and there are no jobs out there. Why..?? Our own US companies and the rich that control them outsourced. Sent our jobs overseas. Why Greed…!!! I live in NJ and applied for a tech job in Wilkes Barre PA this week over 120 miles away. The job site I applied on gave me an update that 93 people have already applied for it. I didn’t know there were that many people in that town/city. I have worked since I was 12 years old, went back to collage at night to get a degree and now at 57 I can’t find a job!!! Applied for 40 jobs last week one return call…. I have been out of work 13 months and received only 26 weeks of unemployment checks. I am currently receiving nothing…!!! Get it..!!! Nothing… And I look for work every day and night… No Joke..!! At the current rate my savings will be gone in 0 months and I am scared of becoming homeless….three weeks now.!!!! I lose my car in 2 weeks….If we can’t help our own then why do we give so much away to foreign countries?? I believe we should help yourself, family and then your friends first. But we should also help each other…!! The main problem in this society is people are Greedy. You tell me how Men with Billions of dollars sleep at night knowing there are hungry children right here at home while their money just sits in banks gaining interest..!! Or knowing if they parted with just half they would still be filthy rich and maybe the money could go to cancer research to help find a cure… You see they don’t care if you starve or a love one dies from cancer or other disease as long as they have their Big Boat, Big House and Big Plane and lots of zeroes in their bank accounts……!!!! This is Nothing but GREAD…!!!!! Honestly I am ashamed to be part of this society today as it stands. If you don’t see it my way just wait until you or someone you love dies from cancer. I just lost a 10 year old niece. Then you will ask yourself What else Could Have Been Done..???.!!! What……Proud to be American …I wonder…????????
Carl@ 1:15 We have/and are with you! The long term unemployed have been dealing with the senselessness of the whole situation! Just doesn't add up!
Homeless, jobless, and heartless. I have lost everything I owned. I am using a friends computer to leave this message. I'm now in a crowded shelter along with my 3 children. My car was reposed, lost our home, I don't even have access to a phone. Finding a job is extremely difficult when you don't have enough to even catch the bus. I was a supervisor at my last job for 30 years. Never did I once think life would deal me this hand. The only reason I have not committed suicide is because of my children. Mr President please help us. Our lives are forever ruined....
If you vote Republican or Democrat you need to be examined. The Democrats are the reason we are in this to begin with. The GOP is failing the people by refusing to help. We are not lazy leeches, we worked hard for these benefits. I can't wait til November. Straight independent ticket....
The republicans need to go now. If they continue on their existing path we will have to live with jobs that won’t even pay for our basic needs. They our already starting their crap about us seeking jobs that pay a decent wage and not being satisfied with a low wage job that won’t even keep a roof over our heads. They are the ones that are destroying the American dream.
The Republican Party has no respect for the average American. Republicans pass bills to make these rich corporations richer but won’t lift a finger to help the average American with food and shelter when they become unemployed. Look at Senator Mitch McConnell who brings a gun to CPAC. That’s a real slap in the face to the families and friends that lost loved ones to gun violence. Republicans only care about big money and power.
Eric Cantor Loses Primary in Massive Upset. The republican party is so stupid that they destroy themselves. I’m going to make sure I get out and vote in Nov.