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By: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee

Behind the grim statistics are the heartbreaking stories of real persons struggling to get by and who need the unemployment insurance benefits they have earned to pay rent and utilities, buy food, and provide for their families”

“I call upon Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid to expedite and bring to the floor for debate and vote legislation extending the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for three months while negotiations continue to reach agreement on a long-term solution.”

House Republicans in mid-December blocked an effort by Democrats to extend the program before the December 28 cut-off, which has left 64,294 people in Texas, and 11,294 in Harris County, without any unemployment insurance even as the rate of Americans who have been out of work for longer than six months remains near historic highs. On average, nationwide, the program provides about $300 a week to recipients. “Behind these grim statistics are the heart breaking stories of real persons struggling to get by, many of whom I have met during the current work period.”

“At a press event I held last week at the Career and Recovery Resources Center in Houston to bring attention to this growing crisis and educate Houstonians about emergency unemployment program, I met with and heard from many constituents who are being harmed by the disruption of unemployment insurance benefits.”

“For example, Anetta, who was an administrative assistant for more than 20 years, working for a local hospital and a school district, told me that she has “not been able to land a job” in this economy and counts on her $600 a month unemployment payment to help with bills. Another example is Jonathan, a welder, who lost his job in February and has been unable to regain steady employment. Jonathan, who is now homeless, told me that without his unemployment insurance he “won’t be able to look for work” because he will lack the resources necessary to make himself presentable to potential employers.”

“Still another is Barry Bachman, a 47 year old information technology analyst who lost his job due to a workforce reduction. Barry is registered with eight different employment recruiters because he desperately wants to work.

“As Barry says, ‘I have made it clear that I will take a cut in pay if I needed, as I WANT TO WORK! But, it is just real slow right now, people are not hiring.’ Barry needs his unemployment benefits to pay his bills, including ‘gasoline and internet capabilities to pursue a job. These aren’t luxuries, they are necessities.”

Failure to extend federal unemployment insurance would also hurt job growth locally and throughout the nation, costing the economy 240,000 jobs, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.