WASHINGTON, DC – Seeking to provide relief for the more than 2 million job-seeking Americans who have lost emergency unemployment insurance coverage since December 28, 2013, U.S. Senator Jack Reed on Tuesday filed S. 2077, The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014, to extend unemployment insurance benefits for 6 months, retroactive to Dec. 28th.

Using a portion of the $16.6 billion in savings from the Farm Bill, this new legislation seeks to strengthen the U.S. economy while providing vulnerable jobseekers and their families with a vital lifeline as they continue to search for employment.

“The expiration of emergency unemployment insurance benefits on Dec. 28th has already affected more than two million Americans, set back our recovery, and cost the national economy billions of dollars,” said Reed. “The six month UI reauthorization I filed Tuesday offers jobseekers some relief and hope as they continue to look for a new job.  I join Rhode Islanders and millions of people across the country in calling on Congress to pass this essential, common sense legislation without further delay.  People are struggling and frustrated, and they’ve been waiting too long for one more Republican in the Senate to realize that restoring emergency UI benefits is the right thing to do for American families and our economy.”

The current unemployment rate in Rhode Island is 9.3%, and about 8,000 Rhode Islanders have lost their UI coverage since the benefits were cutoff on Dec. 28th.  If Congress fails to act this year, the White House Council of Economic Advisors estimates 21,700 Rhode Islanders will be cutoff and it will also mean 1,284 fewer jobs in Rhode Island.

Over the years, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that preserving UI benefits during periods of historically high unemployment is among the most cost-effective programs for reducing joblessness and stimulating the economy.  Recently the CBO reported: “Extending emergency unemployment benefits would raise gross domestic product (GDP) and employment in 2014 relative to what would occur under current law. Recipients of the additional benefits would increase their spending on consumer goods and services. That increase in aggregate demand would encourage businesses to boost production and hire more workers than they otherwise would, particularly given the expected slack in the capital and labor markets.”

“The beneficiaries of this bill have earned these UI benefits through hard work, and they have the right to expect their representatives in Congress would not stand in the way of this emergency assistance,” added Reed. “Reauthorizing emergency UI benefits in times of economic hardship has historically not been a partisan issue, and it’s time we revert to that longstanding tradition of extending a hand to our fellow Americans in their time of need.”

Reed and U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) have sought bipartisan consensus to restore this much needed economic lifeline and retroactive benefits to unemployed Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are actively looking for work. The most recent Senate vote on a 3-month UI fix fell one Republican vote short of the necessary 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster. Reed has pledged to continue working on a bipartisan basis to find a principled compromise to end the current stalemate.