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Pocan Calls on Speaker Boehner to Make Extending Unemployment Benefits for More than 25,000 Wisconsinites First Priority of 2014

Jan 6, 2014
Press Release
An additional 1,600 Wisconsinites will lose vital benefits each week of Congressional inaction

WASHINGTON, D.C.—With the House of Representatives due to return to Washington tomorrow and more than 25,000 Wisconsinites already without unemployment insurance benefits because of Congressional inaction, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) today called on Speaker Boehner to make extending these vital benefits the first priority of 2014.

On December 28th, 1.3 million Americans, including 23,700 Wisconsinites, lost their unemployment benefits, taking up to $6.3 million out of the Wisconsin economy in one week alone. Unemployment benefits are almost always spent quickly by unemployed Americans, meaning it is money that goes right back into the economy. An additional 1,600 Wisconsinites will lose their benefits each week Congress fails to act, totaling 99,000 Wisconsinites without unemployment insurance by the end of 2014.

Pocan, who had pressed Speaker Boehner to address this issue in December, is a sponsor of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act, which would extend the emergency unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed for an additional year.

“Threatening the livelihoods of thousands of Wisconsinites while denying our state economy a much needed stimulus is not just poor public policy, it’s cruel public policy,” Pocan said. “Each week Congress stands on the sidelines, an additional 1,600 Wisconsinites lose the ability to support their families and contribute to their local economies. If House Republicans refuse to focus on any bills that would promote job creation, the least they can do is support the millions of Americans who are desperate to find work. There are no more excuses—Congress cannot wait to act.”

Annually, unemployment insurance lifts almost 57,000 Wisconsinites out of poverty, including more than 13,000 children.

Federal unemployment insurance has been reauthorized several times as Americans continue to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Despite the real progress the economy has made since its near collapse in 2008, there are still 1.3 million fewer jobs than there were before the recession began. The percentage of jobless Wisconsinites who are long-term unemployed is near historic highs at 35 percent. Overall in Wisconsin, the unemployment rate is 6.3 percent, with more than 190,000 Wisconsinites still struggling to find work.

Adding salt to the wound, failure to extend federal unemployment insurance would also hurt job growth throughout the nation, costing the economy 310,000 jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute, while decreasing GDP and increasing government spending for other safety net programs. The White House Council of Economic Advisors estimates that in Wisconsin alone, failing to extend the program will cost more than 5,000 jobs.