Thousands of Colorado families exhausting jobless benefits; Bell Policy Center, Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute and 9to5 Colorado urge Congress to extend program
For immediate release: Sept. 4, 2009
Kathy White, Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, 720-252-9607
Lorena Garcia, 9to5, 303-819-2370
Joe Watt, The Bell Policy Center, 303-297-0456
Thousands of Colorado families exhausting jobless benefits
Bell Policy Center, Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute
and 9to5 Colorado urge Congress to extend program
Stimulus benefits providing major boost to Colorado's economy
With the approach of Labor Day, the Bell Policy Center, the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute and 9to5, National Association of Working Women-Colorado urge Colorado's congressional delegation to extend jobless benefits in response to thousands of workers in Colorado who will reach the end of their federally funded jobless benefits by the end of the year.
According to the National Employment Law Project, 13,853 Colorado workers are expected to collect their last unemployment check by the end of 2009 - even as they struggle to find work and pay their bills in the midst of the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression.
"Colorado's working families are counting on our Senators and Congressmen to make this cause their top priority or thousands of Colorado workers are going to be left out in the cold without a paycheck or unemployment check to pay their mortgages and other bills and provide for their families," said Kathy White of the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute. "Without immediate action to extend benefits for those running out, Colorado will hit a severe setback on the road to recovery. These extensions not only help struggling families stay afloat - they are a direct stimulus to the local economy," said White.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), passed in February, provided crucial support to Colorado's jobless workers. In the first six months after its passage (from February to July), federal aid to jobless workers generated over $231 million in direct relief to Colorado families that needed help and the communities hardest hit by the recession. That includes over $170 million in federally funded extended benefits, lasting up to 33 weeks in Colorado. In addition, the ARRA boosted unemployment checks by $25 a week, generating over $60 million in hard cash to Colorado workers to help cover basic necessities.
In addition to the extension and the boost in weekly benefits, the ARRA also suspended the federal income tax on unemployment insurance (on the first $2,400 in benefits) and offered the unemployed a 65 percent subsidy to continue health coverage under the COBRA program.
Over the past month, support has built rapidly in Congress to enact another extension of unemployment benefits, with key senators like Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) saying that Democrats and Republicans "need to take care of those who are unemployed" and that "we'll definitely support [extending benefits]." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also recently pledged that "soon after Congress returns to Washington we'll need to address this matter."
Advocates for working families, including the AFL-CIO, have called on Congress to expand jobless benefits by 10-20 weeks (depending on the state's unemployment rate), continue all the benefits provided unemployed families by the ARRA, and suspend the federal requirements now requiring state and local governments to pay the full costs of the Extended Benefits program.
"The federal stimulus benefits have significantly blunted the effects of the downturn, and Congress needs to continue building on that success. The unemployment crisis has proved more dire than anyone anticipated a half year ago, such that now there is a clear need and value in providing more assistance," said Rich Jones of the Bell Policy Center.
"We have the option of leaving thousands of workers with zero income, destabilizing local communities, prolonging the downturn, and stifling the hopes of those seeking to get back to work, or we have the option of extending benefits and injecting more stimulus at a crucial juncture of the recovery. The choice for our leaders in Congress is clear," said Lorena Garcia of 9to5 Colorado.