June 27, 2008

Whitehouse Votes to Pass New G.I. Bill for Iraq Veterans

Senate Also Approves Extended Unemployment Benefits

Washington, D.C. – In an historic step forward for Americans who have served our country in uniform since September 11th, the Senate yesterday passed landmark legislation that includes giving these veterans the same opportunities for higher education and job training available to the G.I.s of World War II.

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) applauded the Senate’s ­­92 to 6 vote, which sends the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act to the President’s desk as part of an emergency supplemental appropriations bill, H.R. 2642.

“The men and women of the United States military who have served our country in the years since September 11th have done all we’ve asked of them, and more,” said Whitehouse, a cosponsor of the original Post-9/11 G.I. bill. “They’ve put their lives on hold and left their families behind. As their service ends, they deserve every opportunity we can give them to seek a brighter future.”

The Post-9/11 G.I. provisions follow the model of the original G.I. bill, passed in the wake of World War II. That law helped about 7.8 million veterans pay for tuition, books, fees, and other training costs. For every dollar invested under the G.I. bill, seven dollars flowed back into the economy.

The G.I. education provisions, authored by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), offer four academic years of educational benefits to service members, including Reservists and National Guard members, who have served at least 36 months of qualified active duty. The measure covers costs up to the most expensive in-state public school, plus a housing stipend.

The funding measure passed yesterday also includes a measure aimed at helping families weather tough economic times by extending unemployment insurance benefits an additional 13 weeks.

Unemployment insurance supports workers who are laid off, or whose companies go out of business, as they search for a new job. The system is funded largely by payments from employers. While unemployment benefits almost never replace the full amount a worker would have received in a paycheck, the assistance helps families make mortgage or rent payments, or meet other regular living expenses.

The federal unemployment insurance program generally funds 26 weeks of payments for workers, but in today’s worsening economy, many see their benefits run out before they are able to find another job. Last month, the national unemployment rate saw its biggest one-month increase in over 20 years, reaching a four-year high of 5.5 percent. In Rhode Island alone, there are more than 18,000 workers in need of a job whose benefits have already or will soon run out.


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