The Unemployed: We Need Action, Not Excuses

-For Immediate Release-
July 30, 2014

Patricia Brooks, Center for Effective Government,, (202) 351-1757
Brian Gumm, Center for Effective Government,, (202) 683-4812

The Unemployed: We Need Action, Not Excuses

Witness Wednesdays participants, in a bipartisan fight for emergency unemployment compensation, say their demands will shift to members’ districts as Congress heads off for August recess

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2014—At the close of seven weeks of "Witness Wednesdays" events on Capitol Hill, advocates and lawmakers issued an urgent call to renew emergency unemployment compensation ahead of the August recess. As members of Congress head home for town hall meetings and listening sessions, nine and a half million unemployed Americans will have the opportunity to directly contact them.

"We have been sharing the stories of the unemployed on Capitol Hill and with the media over the past seven weeks; now members of Congress will be going home to hear these stories from the people they represent," said Katherine McFate, president and CEO of the Center for Effective Government.

"Just because Congress is on recess doesn't mean that my bills will stop coming in. I'm also going to continue to press for emergency unemployment benefits, with persistence and hope – in the same way I keep looking for work" said Debra of Austin, Texas, who has been out of work for over a year. "You bet my representatives will hear from me, and I'm not alone. We’re tired of being invisible to members of Congress and the media. We need action, not excuses."

Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project said, "Emergency unemployment assistance gives people like Debra the money to help pay for electricity, phone service, and an Internet connection so they can search for work, and to pay for gas to go to interviews. It takes resources to look for work, and these folks have been searching for over six months."

"Millions of children, along with their parents, are suffering from the cutoff of emergency unemployment benefits. It's hard enough to tell a child that she can't have a birthday party or go on a school field trip – how do you explain that you're moving to a homeless shelter?" said Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security at the National Women's Law Center. "Adding insult to injury, the same House majority that refuses to restore emergency unemployment insurance has approved hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals. It's an outrage."

"Speaker Boehner's refusal to let the House vote on restoring unemployment insurance means that desperate Americans will lose homes, cars, and savings, making it harder and harder for them to get back into jobs," said Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs. "Mr. Speaker: please hear these stories and give people who want to work a chance."

"The stories read at Witness Wednesdays are only the tip of the iceberg – there are millions of stories of American families facing bankruptcy and financial devastation because Congress has failed to renew Emergency Unemployment Compensation," McFate added. "The handful of lawmakers blocking these benefits needs to step aside and allow a vote. Debra and millions of other Americans need action, not excuses."

Since June 11, 70 members of Congress faith, labor, community, and nonprofit leaders have joined together to read 86 of the 2,500 stories submitted by Americans facing long-term unemployment. The "Witness Wednesdays" events have been organized by the Center for Effective Government, the National Employment Law Project, the Coalition on Human Needs, and the National Women's Law Center.

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