Dear Member of Congress,
Our religious traditions and scriptures affirm the inherent dignity of all human beings. All of us are called to help our brothers and sisters in need. Despite a slight increase in jobs created in the past few months unemployed workers, especially those living in poverty, are still struggling to make ends meet. There are still millions of people who have been laid off and are unable to find employment. Therefore, we write to you with growing concern over proposals in both the House of Representatives and Senate that would make significant changes to the state unemployment benefits program.
S. 904 and H.R. 1745, both titled “the JOBS Act of 2011” allow states to strip away insurance benefits to the long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more). These benefits were agreed to by both the President and Congress at the end of last year in order to assure that federal unemployment beneficiaries could stay on this critical program through the remainder of 2011—a time that all forecasters agreed would see a very slow recovery of the labor market. If these bills are passed, the long-term unemployed, who struggle most to find jobs, would be stripped of their benefits less than halfway through its 13-month life.
Congress has never discontinued a federal extension of unemployment benefits when the national unemployment rate was higher than 7.4%. There are currently over 4.1 million unemployed people relying on federal unemployment benefits to put food on their table, pay their rent or mortgage, and purchase medicine until they are able to find another job. Many held strong jobs for years, paying taxes into the unemployment benefits system, yet would be denied the program’s benefits now that they need its support.
We recognize that states and local government continue to suffer the greatest degree of fiscal collateral damage from the recession, and the federal government should provide the assistance to ensure that states do not cut essential services; however, aid to states should aim to strengthen rather than weaken the social safety net. Attached you will find DHN’s Job’s Statement of Principles that shows a path towards moral and successful job creation legislation.
We urge you to vote against any legislation that makes significant changes to the federal unemployment benefits, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because helping families get back on their feet is good for the economic strength of individual communities and for our nation as a whole. Often times these benefits are the only thing preventing more families from slipping below the poverty line.
Unemployment benefits are a strong, proven federal program that deserves to be protected. We urge you to stand up for jobless Americans and vote against any harmful measures that could strip them of their benefits.
Bread for the World
Church of the Brethren
Disciples Justice Action Network
The Episcopal Church
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Interfaith Worker Justice
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
National Advocacy Center Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Jewish Women
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness
Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Team
Union for Reform Judaism
The United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society