Heck: Congress should reauthorize jobless benefits

Economy: More than 3,000 Pierce County residents to lose compensation

of the HeraldDecember 25, 2013 

When Congress left Washington, D.C., for the holiday, elected officials left the expiration of the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program unresolved.

“About 535 members of Congress who will go home for the holidays will hear from the 1.3 million people with coal in their stockings,” said Denny Heck, who represents portions of Pierce and Thurston counties from Washington state’s 10th Congressional District.

More than 24,400 Washingtonians are expected to lose their unemployment benefits starting Saturday, including 3,472 from Heck’s district.

“It’s cruel timing and, frankly, economically not a very smart move on Congress’ part,” Heck said. “We shouldn’t have adjourned until we took this up and took care of it.”

When Congress convenes Jan. 7, Heck and Washington state’s House Democrats plan to address the necessity for the program.

“I’m hoping and expecting that it will be looked at in January,” Heck said. “It’s the right thing economically and the moral thing to do.”

An additional 37,600 Washington state residents could lose coverage in the first six months of 2014 if the program isn’t extended, according to House Democrats.

The White House Council of Economic Advisors estimates that failing to extend the unemployment insurance program would hurt national job growth and cost the economy 240,000 jobs. In Washington state alone, it would result in the elimination of 6,183 jobs.

“The jobs that have been created (since the recession hit) pay less than the jobs that existed before,” Heck said. “This is the longest unemployment than any other down economy.”

Long-term employment makes up 37 percent of those unemployed, according to House Democrats. Reports show there are still 1.3 million fewer jobs than before the recession began.

“This is the most anemic recession we’ve had,” Heck said.

Federal unemployment insurance first took effect in 2008 and has been reauthorized several times since. Heck said the program provides a bridge for the unemployed to get them to another job.

Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at andrew.fickes@puyallupherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.

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