Durbin Calls on House to Maintain Unemployment Insurance Benefits

[CHICAGO, IL] – The House of Representatives must take quick action before the end of the year to ensure that millions of unemployed workers across the country do not lose access to the critical safety net provided by unemployment insurance, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today. A fully offset agreement to maintain all tiers of federal unemployment benefits for two months was approved in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote by the Senate on Saturday, allowing lawmakers time to begin work on a long-term agreement early next year. An estimated 58,000 workers in Illinois stand to lose their unemployment insurance benefits in January if the Senate’s legislation extending the benefits is not approved by the House.


“Across the country, 3.5 million of our friends, neighbors, and family members rely on federal unemployment benefits to pay the rent and put food on the table. Earlier this week, the Senate passed a bipartisan agreement that maintains the current level of unemployment insurance benefits for the next two months. However, unless the House acts, this program will expire in just two weeks, devastating million of families across America at a time when they most need help. America has had its fill this year of political ultimatums. There is no excuse for the House’s failure to extend these critical benefits for workers who have lost jobs through no fault of their own and who have already exhausted their state benefits,” Durbin said.


Approximately 14 million Americans are currently unemployed, 7 million of whom are collecting unemployment insurance. Of those 7 million, 3.5 million have exhausted their state unemployment benefits and rely on federal benefits. Unless the House votes to maintain the federal unemployment insurance program, nearly 2 million Americans will lose their benefits by the end of January.


Unemployed workers in Illinois are currently eligible for 99 weeks of unemployment insurance, including 26 weeks of state benefits and 73 weeks of federally funded benefits. If the House fails to act, unemployed workers across the country will lose all 73 weeks of emergency and extended federal unemployment benefits. In Illinois, a recent law would automatically reduce state unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 25 weeks if the federal unemployment insurance program is not extended.


Although the nationwide unemployment rate has dropped to 8.6 percent, the unemployment rate in Illinois is 10 percent. Almost 14 million Americans are unemployed, 6 million of whom have been unemployed for more than 6 months. In addition, according to the Department of Labor, unemployment now lasts an average of nearly 40 weeks—more than doubled from three years ago.


“There are four jobless workers for every job opening in our country, and the unemployment rate in Illinois remains at ten percent. Not only did unemployment keep 3.2 million people from slipping into poverty last year, it is also one of the best ways to generate economic demand and stimulate growth. In fact, no form of fiscal stimulus has proven more effective than emergency unemployment benefits,” said Durbin.


Unemployment benefits have a proven impact on increasing consumer spending. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, every $1 spent on unemployment insurance benefits generates up to $1.90 in economic growth. In addition, according to the Economic Policy Institute, extending federal unemployment benefits for one additional year would generate $72 billion in economic growth and create or save 560,000 jobs over the next year, including 26,900 in Illinois.