March 26, 2009

Whitehouse-Stabenow Budget Amendment Supports Unemployment Assistance and Job-Creating Legislation

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Budget Committee today passed a bipartisan amendment to the FY 2010 budget resolution, sponsored by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), supporting additional assistance to the millions of Americans facing unemployment during difficult economic times. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) cosponsored the measure.

“For millions of Americans looking for a job today, the challenges seem almost insurmountable,” Whitehouse said. “This amendment will help us to pass much needed assistance to help working families weather this economic storm, especially in states like Rhode Island where unemployment has hit hardest.”

“Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the country and middle-class families continue to struggle during this economic crisis,” said Stabenow. “This amendment will provide additional unemployment assistance to states hardest hit by rapid job loss so families can put food on the table.”

The recession has seen many companies lay off workers or close their doors for good, driving the national unemployment rate to 8.1 percent as of February 2009. Unemployment insurance has kept millions of American families afloat during these dark hours, helping them make mortgage or rent payments and feed their families as they look for a job and try to get back on their feet. Last year, Congress extended unemployment benefits by an additional 13 weeks in response to the sagging job market. Most recently, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act increased unemployment insurance benefits for individuals by $100 per month.

The Whitehouse-Stabenow amendment creates a reserve fund to accommodate legislation that would assist the unemployed or reduce the unemployment rate, particularly in areas with the highest rates of unemployment. With unemployment rates of 12 percent and 10.5 percent in February, Michigan and Rhode Island have among the worst job markets in the country.

Reserve funds allow the chairman of the Budget Committee to adjust the budget resolution when certain legislation is passed, to accommodate revenue and spending levels included in the bill. The Whitehouse-Stabenow measure is deficit-neutral, specifying that unemployment legislation could not increase the deficit over a five-year period.


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