December 4, 2023

Renew Emergency UI, Expand Opportunities for All

 Posted by Congressman Steny Hoyer
Pax IICongressman Steny H. Hoyer

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama talked about the importance of increasing access to economic opportunity so that all Americans can achieve a secure place in our middle class. As part of that effort, he urged Congress to renew emergency unemployment insurance for the 1.7 million Americans who have lost this important assistance, which was cut off just three days after Christmas after Congress failed to take action to ensure it could continue.

Emergency unemployment insurance helps those who are struggling to find work in one of the toughest job markets in recent memory.  Not only are Americans facing a job market where there are three applicants for every job opening, but many of the long-term unemployed face unfair discrimination and are often overlooked when compared to someone with the same or less work experience.  For a family that has lost an income for months on end, losing emergency insurance could result in an accumulation of debt, the risk of default on student loans, or a diminished ability to save for college or retirement.  The expiration of this assistance is painful for the families affected, and it could put many at risk of slipping into poverty.

In the Fifth District, I recently met with Marylanders who shared with me how unemployment insurance is helping them put food on the table and pay their bills while they continue to search for work. Many of them, having earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, told me they never expected to be in this situation – they were responsible, played by the rules, and worked hard to get ahead. They told me unemployment insurance isn’t enough and that they were working hard to find jobs, but the assistance is critical to helping them make ends meet while continuing the search.

There are nearly 4 million Americans who have been out of work for 26 weeks or longer, and never before has Congress allowed emergency unemployment insurance to expire when the number of long-termed unemployed has been even half of that figure.  While the unemployment rate has fallen significantly since President Obama took office in 2009, there are still too many Americans out of work for us to declare our jobs recovery complete.  Congress has a duty to restore emergency unemployment insurance immediately, and I will continue to push for legislation to do so.

I am hopeful that both parties can come together to renew this critical lifeline for job-seekers in Maryland and throughout the country. At the same time, we must also take steps to support the creation of jobs that pay well and ensure that hardworking Americans have an opportunity to secure a place in the middle class. The Make It In America jobs plan, which I have been promoting over the past few years along with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, will boost our economic competitiveness so private sector businesses can do what they do best: expand, hire, produce quality goods here in our country, and provide their workers with opportunities to make it in America.  There is no reason why the House cannot act right away to bring bipartisan Make It In America legislation to the Floor. It is also important that Congress take up legislation to raise the minimum wage so that no hardworking American with a full time job is forced to live in poverty.

These are policies that the American people strongly support, and Congress ought to pursue them without delay.  I continue to urge House Republican leaders, who control which bills come to the Floor for a vote, to take up legislation that will assist those in need and increase access to economic opportunities for all Americans.

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