Pocan pushes for unemployment extension
By Gina Duwe
JANESVILLE--Stephanie Ransom of Beloit and her 3-year-old daughter are living on $50 in food stamps after her unemployment compensation ended last month.
Mike Marko of Janesville could be dipping into his savings and retirement soon after his unemployment expires in less than two weeks.
It's real people such as Ransom and Marko who are trying hard to find a job but now face the daily stress of doing it without the backup of unemployment, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-2nd District, said Wednesday.
Pocan gathered the local residents for a press conference at Blackhawk Technical College in his ongoing call for Congress to extend long-term unemployment insurance.
For each week that Congress doesn't act, he said, Lambeau Field could be nearly filled with the 72,000 people nationwide losing benefits. In Wisconsin, 1,600 people lose benefits each week, he said.
Congress did not renew the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which expired Dec. 28 and provides support for unemployed workers who have exhausted state-paid benefits that generally run for 26 weeks.
Nationwide, 1.5 million people were affected when the benefits expired, including 27,000 in Wisconsin, Pocan said. The state estimates more than 700 Rock County residents have been affected.
“You'd think that would be an issue that has so many times in our recent history has united people from both parties,” Pocan said. “Unfortunately we're not seeing that right now. We're seeing the Republican leadership in the House unwilling to.”
He said he differs sharply on the issue from his neighboring colleague, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-1st District.
Ryan's spokesman Kevin Seifert provided a statement when asked for Ryan's stance: “Congressman Ryan supports unemployment insurance as a crucial part of the safety net. This is just another extension of what was supposed to be a temporary addition to the original program. Instead, our focus should be on getting people back to work.”
Seifert also included an excerpt from Ryan's interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday last month.
Nothing was offered to pay for the extensions, which would have “blown a hole in our deficits,” Ryan said.
“A 13th extension of this emergency unemployment extension from the 2008 crisis, we have a lot of evidence showing that it will prolong unemployment. Our focus is getting people back to work,” Ryan said. “We want jobs and we want pro-growth policies that help create jobs so we don't have people going on unemployment in the first place.”
But Pocan said the benefits are crucial for people already stressed by joblessness, and he's hoping the thousands more affected each week will result in action in a matter of weeks, not months.
“Eventually people are going to realize it's something we have to do. It's not a left or right issue,” he said.