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Congresswoman Maxine Waters speaks at rally for unemployment benefits

Roughly 220,000 Californians left without insurance

OW Staff Writer | 1/23/2014, midnight

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) is leading a charge to ensure that more than one million Americans receive unemployment benefits, as a Senate bid to extend those benefits has failed.

A federal program supplying extra weeks of benefits to the long-term unemployed expired at the end of 2013, and congressional Democrats were unable to revive the program. Many people who receive unemployment benefits, including roughly 220,000 Californians, received their last check on December 28.

Starting this year, the maximum period of unemployment payments dropped to 26 weeks in most states, down from as much as 73 weeks.

President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats are seeking an extension, and Waters will be guest speaking at a community rally hosted by a coalition of labor unions and community organizations. The rally is this Saturday, January 25, at 11 a.m. at the California Employment Development Department, 5401 Crenshaw Boulevard.

Waters has taken issue with the Republican senators.

“I am outraged that Republicans have once again turned a blind eye to the 1.3 million Americans who have lost their jobs at a time when economic inequality and poverty are still at the forefront of our nation’s problems,” Waters said. “Unemployment insurance benefits make it possible for these Americans to put food on the table, clothe their families, and pay their rent. While Republican leaders have recently talked about addressing our nation’s income equality issues, their failure to extend the unemployment insurance benefits exposes their words as meaningless rhetoric.

“My Democratic colleagues and I will continue to fight to restore unemployment insurance for millions of Americans who have been cut off from this critical lifeline while still searching for work.”

The Obama administration fears that by the end of 2014, 4.9 million people will have been affected.

Congresswoman Karen Bass released the following statement:

“The African American community has been disproportionately impacted by job losses during the Great Recession, and I was disappointed that Tea Party Republicans in the Senate united to block the bipartisan proposal that would have provided immediate relief to over 1.3 million unemployed Americans who are looking for work. In addition, Republicans in the House again adjourned last Friday without extending benefits that real people are relying on to stay in their homes and put food on their tables.

“Every week Congress fails to act, an additional 72,000 people, on average, will lose access to this critical assistance. Doing nothing is now costing the American economy; the expiration of federal unemployment insurance has already taken $400 million out of the American economy, including nearly $65 million dollars from the California economy and over $16 million from Los Angeles County’s economy.

“While many Americans are looking for jobs, it is time for Republicans in Congress to do their job and immediately provide assistance to Americans in need.”

Senators have not been able to agree on a timeframe for an extension, or the cost, which could be between $6 billion to $25 billion, depending on how long the extension is. It could range from three to 11 months.

Democrats believe that not helping out-of-work Americans would negatively impact long-term unemployment and the economy.

Republicans believe that extensions should be paid through other spending cuts. They also believe that longer periods of unemployment benefits adds to the problem because people will not take lower paying jobs because they have a source of income.

It can be argued that longer periods of unemployment benefits is not the cause for individuals to be out of work for longer periods of time, but rather that there is a shortage of jobs. According to a Department of Labor report, the U.S. economy added far fewer jobs than expected. There were 74,000 new jobs created in December 2013, but the expectation was 200,000