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Religious Coalition Supports Extending Federal Unemployment Insurance

House and Senate Members encouraged to support Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 2002

Contact:Alexis Rice or Rachel Wainer

202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, October 8, 2002- A coalition of religious organizations today wrote to members of the House of Representatives and Senators to urge an extension of the Temporary Extended Benefits program to assist unemployed workers. The letter notes, "Unless Congress acts now to extend unemployment benefits, millions of families will find themselves in severe economic hardship, unable to pay for basic necessities for their families." The letter also states "We believe that government must lead the way in providing for those who have fallen on hard times."

The full text of the letter, which was coordinated by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and sent to Congress follows:

"And if your brother becomes poor and his means fail him with you, then you shall strengthen him, be he a stranger or a settler." Leviticus 25:35

Dear Senator and Representative:

As faith-based organizations, we write to express our strong support for extending and improving the Temporary Extended Benefits program to provide relief to the unemployed. We thus urge you to support Senator Wellstone and Representative Rangel's Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 2002 (S. 3009/H.R. 5491).

The poor economy continues to bring hardship to American workers. In March 2002, when Congress first acted to extend unemployment insurance, the unemployment rate was 5.7%. The most recent data shows that the unemployment rate remains at 5.7%, and the economic forecast of the Congressional Budget Office predicts that the unemployment rate will be about 6% through the second half of 2003.

The extended weeks of unemployment benefits provided by Congress in March will expire by the end of the year. Unless Congress acts to extend this program before it adjourns this month, no worker will be eligible for a single week of fully federally-funded unemployment benefits after the first week of January 2003.

Long-term unemployment, at its highest level in almost thirty years, continues to rise. More than one million workers have already run out of unemployment benefits. When the Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is scheduled to end in December, this number will increase to over 2 million workers. Over the previous year, requests for emergency food assistance climbed an average of 23 percent in cities across the country. Private charities and the faith community have been unable to accommodate the drastic increase in need. Additionally, new data released by the Census Bureau show that the nation's poverty rate rose from 11.3 percent in 2000 to 11.7 percent in 2001. That translates into an additional 1.3 million Americans living below the poverty line.

During the last recession, in the early 1990s, Congress and President George H.W. Bush acted three times to aid unemployed workers. Senator Wellstone and Congressman Rangel's Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act is almost identical to the bill passed by Congress in the early 1990s. In terms of the increase in the number of people who are unemployed, the two recessions are comparable. However, in this current recession, Congress has acted only once to help workers.

Extending unemployment insurance will put money into the hands of those people who will put the money right back into our economy. Unless Congress acts now to extend unemployment benefits, millions of families will find themselves in severe economic hardship, unable to pay for basic necessities for their families.

The biblical mandate is clear. We are called to assist the poor and the needy. We believe that government must lead the way in providing for those who have fallen on hard times. Please support the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 2002.

Sincerely,

American Friends Service Committee
Bread for the World
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
McAuley Institute
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Presbyterian Church (USA) Washington Office
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis .



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