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Reform Jewish Movement Calls on Congress to Extend the Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program

Pelavin: Unemployed Americans will feel the impact of Congress's inaction and an additional 780,000 workers will be without a paycheck or an unemployment check to support their families.


Contact:
Alexis Rice or Rachel Wainer 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, December 27, 2002 - Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today released the following statement regarding the expiration of the Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation program:

Tomorrow, December 28th, 780,000 unemployed workers will be completely cut off from their unemployment benefits and left without governmental help to sustain their families. At the same time, an additional 95,000 people per week will exhaust their state unemployment benefits and be unable to apply to receive any federal benefits until a Congressional extension of the Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation (TEUC) program makes these workers eligible for benefits.

Due to partisan wrangling, the House and Senate abdicated their responsibility to American workers by adjourning without extending the TEUC program in November. One million jobless workers have already exhausted their TEUC benefits but have been unable to find work. Unemployed Americans will feel the impact of Congress's inaction and an additional 780,000 workers will be without a paycheck or an unemployment check to support their families.

The troubled economy continues to bring hardship to American workers. In November, the unemployment rate jumped to 6.0%, representing 8.5 million unemployed Americans. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the unemployment rate will remain steady through the second half of 2003. Long-term unemployment is at its highest level in almost thirty years and continues to rise.

The biblical mandate is clear: "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). Government must lead the way in providing for those who have fallen on hard times. In order to adequately address the needs of Americans who are unable to find work, the 108th Congress must make extending unemployment insurance its first order of business.

In addition to restoring benefits for the workers whose 13 weeks of TEUC benefits will be prematurely cut off when the program abruptly ends tomorrow, Congress must act to help the one million jobless Americans who have already exhausted their TEUC benefits but cannot find work. Congress must also allow the 1.2 million workers who will exhaust their state unemployment benefits during the first quarter of 2003 to apply to receive federal benefits through the TEUC program.

It is imperative that Congress acts quickly. Each week, more unemployed workers will be left without income and will be forced to struggle to provide the most basic necessities for themselves and their families. We call on the President and Congress to pass an unemployment insurance extension that sustains unemployed Americans, strengthens our economy, and prevents children from going hungry during the New Year.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .



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