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Stocks are plunging, the DOE expects gasoline to remain at 4 dollars a gallon for the rest of the year, and the economy is shedding jobs. In Missouri alone, we’ve lost 21,362 jobs over the last five months.

Now, the US Congress is taking a second look at stimulating the economy, including a modest extension of unemployment insurance benefits. This is important because during the negotiations over the stimulus package in the early spring, the Bush administration successfully blocked this same extension in favor of adding new corporate tax breaks. This despite the fact that a bump in unemployment insurance is one of the most effective government tools in fighting a recession, because it gets relief to the unemployed, the people most likely to spend the money quickly to stimulate the economy. What’s more, Congress included just such a temporary increase in 2001 during our last recession.

So the Missouri Budget Project is asking Missourians to call our Senators now to give them our input now. Don’t let Bush block temporary unemployment insurance extensions in favor of corporate welfare again! Congress, and especially the Senate, will not decisively act without a kick in the pants.

Senator Kit Bond: (202) 224-5721

Senator Claire McCaskill: (202) 224-6154

It also wouldn’t hurt to contact your representative, either. So what are you waiting for?

The full MBP press release is below the fold.

Extension of Federal Unemployment Insurance Benefits is Critical to Missouri Families

The most recent employment figures from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the U.S. economy has lost 324,000 jobs in the last five months. Missouri alone lost 21,362 jobs over that same period.[1] An increasing number of the nation’s unemployed workers are facing long-term unemployment (lasting longer than six months) and have exhausted their unemployment benefits. At the same time families are faced with rising gas and food prices, making it even more difficult for unemployed families to meet their needs.

As a result of the dramatic decline in employment, the U.S. Congress is considering a temporary extension of Unemployment Insurance Benefits from the maximum of 26 weeks to an additional 13 weeks. At times of economic distress such as this, the U.S. Congress has passed similar extensions to help families through the economic decline; and most recently passed a similar temporary extension in 2002.

The cost for extension of the Unemployment Insurance Benefits would be paid from the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund, which currently has $35 billion in reserves, and would therefore not reduce available federal funds for other priorities. Further, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office has stated that extending benefits in this manner is one of the most cost-effective and fastest-acting forms of economic stimulus.[2]

As unemployment grows and jobs become harder to find, passage of the temporary extension of Unemployment Insurance Benefits is a critical and proven tool in assisting Missouri ‘s families to overcome the current economic decline.

Key Facts about the Impact of extending Unemployment Insurance Benefits on Missouri Families

§   Missouri has lost 21,362 jobs in the last five months, resulting in the Unemployment Rate increasing to 5.2.[3]

§   According to the National Employment Law Project, more than 17,000 people in Missouri have already exhausted their Unemployment Insurance benefits, yet remain unemployed. In the next nine months, an estimated 45,000 more workers statewide are expected to join them.[4]

Congress should take immediate action, with the support of Missouri Senators Bond and McCaskill.

Please Contact Senators Bond and McCaskill right away on this critical issue. Thanks for your work for Missouri’s Families!

[1] U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ , figures from December 2007 through April 2008.

[2] U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means, “Unemployment Extension Briefing Materials”, June 9, 2008

[3] IBID Footnote #1

[4] National Employment Law Project: http://www.nelp.org/