Doing Right by Those Hit Hardest by the Recession

Filed in Workforce Development by on July 22, 2010 14 Comments

Secretary Solis visits The Workplace, a CareerOneStop center in Bridgeport, CT.

A Washington newspaper recently commissioned a survey that showed that Washington insiders are experiencing the effects of the recession far differently than regular people throughout the country.  They found that relatively few Washington insiders have been affected by the recession, while the vast majority of Americans have felt the pain caused by the historic economic downturn.

I’ve traveled throughout the United States extensively in the past year, and I can tell the insiders that this recession has been absolutely brutal for working families; especially those who have watched their jobs vanish as a result of the recession.  These are not the banking executives that made risky bets with other people’s money, created synthetic derivatives, or took their companies headlong into the subprime mortgage markets.  These aren’t the lobbyists enjoying record revenues, or the bankruptcy lawyers who lack the time to take on another client.  These are ordinary, hardworking Americans who asked nothing more than a fair wage for an honest day’s work.

Because of the severity of the recession, many Americans who lost their jobs in the initial, devastating months of the meltdown have still not been able to find work.  I’ve talked to them across the country, in big cities and small towns.  I’ve heard their stories of sending hundreds of resumes by day, and worrying throughout the night about how to pay the mortgage, the electric bills, or put their kids in clothes that fit.

These families face a problem of math – there are currently five applicants for every job opening.  There are too many people looking, and not enough people hiring.  As a result, the Obama Administration worked to extend unemployment benefits in order to help keep these families afloat in the interim.

Six weeks ago, however, those emergency unemployment insurance provisions expired.  The Administration and Democrats in the Congress worked to extend the benefits.  Even though a majority of Senators supported the extension, Republicans in the Senate blocked action, using parliamentary tactics to obstruct and delay.  As a result, 2.5 million Americans who were looking for work were cut off from unemployment assistance.  That’s 2.5 million Americans already struggling to get by, cut off from modest benefits to help them keep their mortgages paid and food on their table.  That’s 2.5 million Americans with less money to spend at their local grocery store or gas station to help local economies grow.

Some Republicans claimed that ending these benefits will force these Americans to start looking for work, ignoring the fact that there are five Americans looking for every existing job opening.  Still others, while blocking the extension of these benefits, are arguing for a return to the policies of George W. Bush, and advocating extending tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.  How they can support tax breaks for the very executives who made millions on the risky derivative trades that caused the financial meltdown, and turn a blind eye to the working people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own is beyond me.

This week, the impasse was broken when Senator Robert Byrd’s replacement was finally sworn into the Senate.  That is good news for America’s displaced workers, but it’s shocking to me that it takes a super majority in the Senate to do right by the people hit hardest by this recession—especially when there is talk of cutting taxes for millionaire bankers, lobbyists and executives.

The good news is that later today, the President is expected to sign an extension of the unemployment benefits, providing a modest level of help to the 2.5 million Americans that lost income because of the GOP’s obstruction.  I know that for these families, it couldn’t come soon enough.  But it’s a shame that a partisan agenda held up these benefits for our family, friends and neighbors in need.

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Comments (14)

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  1. Bob from Ca. says:

    What happened to the COBRA subsidy? Apparently it was pulled out of the IU bill several weeks ago due to Republican pressures. Now I get $1700 month (less taxes) because I was laid off on 6/4 (expired subsidy was 5/31). I was “tricked” by the bank that I worked for (Rabobank) w/ them telling me they were giving me an extra months health insurance by making my termination date 6/4 instead of actual last day worked (5/25). I signed the severance agreement so have no recourse.

    So they would not have to pay the 65% subsidy. Now after deducting $450 an month for health insurance only-my IU payments are reduced by about 30%. W/ the subsidy my cost would have been $135/mo. Dutch-get the hell out of our country -we have enough greedy american banks here as it is.

    And thanks Republicans- you obviously do not care about the Americans who have & want to work but are facing bankruptcy due to your tax cuts & greed!

  2. Linda Krajnak says:

    What about the people whose UI ran out a year ago? These people have fallen through the cracks. I have a friend who has been in construction his whole life. He has been diligent in his job search, but has not found employment yet. What about unemployment for these people? They are losing everything.


    What is the process now for receiving extended benefits. My regular benefits expired on June 2. I continued to file weekly as instructed by the Virginia Employment Commission. Do I have to wait for a approval letter? I’m hearing so many different things now.

  4. Lou Martin says:

    Now that President has signed The Extended UI Benefits law, states are awaiting instructions from the DOL. Given varying degrees of preparation for implementing this act on the part of the states, will DOL announce when intructions have been given to the States?

  5. Bruce Field says:

    “Doing Right by Those Hit Hardest by the Recession”, well not in my view.

    I and others were fired in late 2008 /early 2009 because we exposed large scale fraud and employee abuses in a Denver governmental agency (Denver Water) here in Colorado. Instead of begin commended for doing our jobs ethically and properly and trying to save the citizens of Denver millions of dollars; we were abused, then fired and continue to be harassed by the city and it’s agency Denver Water. Add to this all Federal agencies contacted have refused to investigate this obvious illegal and criminal activity. If the Federal agencies just did their jobs in Colorado , it would save the average hardworking Denver citizens millions of dollars, but instead they allow a few rich, corrupt thugs to fleece the rest of us. We would be happy to meet and discuss all these problems with the Sec. of Labor, but we can’t even get a meeting to discuss and expose these problems in the best interest of the millions of citizens here in Denver. Why is this not a priority to the DOL ?

  6. Randal Myers says:

    I don’t understand this, apparently along with about 2 million other Americans from reading blog comments posted everywhere you look whose benefits ran out June 2 expecting to recieve a letter telling them they are eligible for 6 months more of UI benefits. What is going to happen when they figure out from the confused wording on their DOL websites, they get NOTHING except a 6 month extention to FILE for UI?
    Randal Myers

  7. Paul Evans says:

    I live in the state of Kentucky and have not had an unemployment check for 7 weeks. The website for the state of Kentucky unemployment says that they know the bill was passed but they have to receive final directions from the DOL regarding the criteria of the new bill. After that they will program it into their system and they don’t know how long that will take. It depends on the complexity of the extension. How complex could this be. What is taking so long? I have already lost my Cobra and have had to file for bankruptcy. I have worked for 40 years and never drawn unemployment until now and have always been able to pay my bills up until now. It is very degrading. We need a push on this so we can start to draw our checks again. We depended on those checks to help us get thorough life. Can you speed up the process for the state of Kentucky or tell them to get off their duffs and start sending out these checks. Thank you for your time.

  8. Randal Myers says:

    You need to start calling your representatives offices or emailing them directly and asking THEM these questions. It’s the only way to get anything done anymore or they listen to the big money lobbyists. Google their names for your area and you can reach them personally and speakout for AMERICANS instead of pumping wasted money to more big business.

  9. Dawn says:

    I live in Virginia and we are being told that the Labor Department is holding up information are when and how funds will be allocated. When will we be able to receive our benefits? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  10. Dawn says:

    I live in Virginia and we are being told that the Labor Department is holding up information are when and how funds will be allocated. When will we be able to receive our benefits? Any information would be greatly appreciated. I understand it takes time but everything should still be in place.

  11. whatisthis says:

    Hi, thank you for your post, it helped me a lot figuring out many things.

  12. I never regretted my time at school, I just wish I might have got out with much less debt and more time to do the issues I was educated to do fairly than spend all my time in search of cash to repay my money owed in a minimal wage economic system!

  13. Unemployment doesn’t even cover an average mortgage. This is sad because when you need help you don’t get enough to get by without other assistance or income.

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