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Senator Feinstein Joins Effort to Extend Unemployment Insurance for Those Hit Hardest by Economic Downturn

-Bill provides additional 13 weeks of benefits for states with high unemployment rates -

Washington, DC – With the nation’s unemployment rate at a five-year high of 6.1 percent, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today joined 15 Senate colleagues in introducing legislation to extend unemployment insurance benefits for workers who have already exhausted their benefits and for those living in states with high unemployment rates.  

The legislation, would provide seven weeks of unemployment insurance for individuals who have exhausted their benefits. It also would provide 13 additional weeks of benefits to unemployed workers in states that have been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn, such as California, and have unemployment rates above 6 percent. The bill, authored by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), is co-sponsored by Sens. Feinstein, Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Joe Biden (D-Del), Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Max Baucus (D-MT), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI),  Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Carl Levin (D-MI), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

High unemployment states which would benefit from this legislation include: California, Alaska, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

“Extending benefits is critical for these individuals who have struggled too long to find viable employment. This is a timely and targeted action that will quickly put money into the pockets of those who need it most,” Senator Feinstein said. “With more and more American families facing the threat of foreclosure, and being squeezed at the pump and at the checkout line, this is the wrong time to leave unemployed Americans without these critical benefits. We in Congress need to do what we can to help these workers and their families ride out this economic storm.”  

In 1991 and 2002, when unemployment rates were also high, Congress worked with the White House to enact similar legislation to extend unemployment benefits.

Congress acted in June to provide a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits as part of the Fiscal Year 2008 supplemental appropriations bill. However, additional relief was not provided to high unemployment states.

Last month, 84,000 jobs were lost nationwide, marking the seventh straight month of job losses. So far, 605,000 jobs have been lost this year, due in part to losses in construction and related trades, as the spillover from the housing slowdown continues to impact the economy.

The number of unemployed workers in California has increased by nearly 375,000 between July 2007 and 2008. And, this number is only projected to worsen when the latest jobs numbers are released later this week.

The bill also would help states like California replenish their unemployment insurance trust funds, which help fund unemployment insurance benefits. California’s unemployment fund has been depleted by the increase in the state’s unemployment rate – currently ranked fourth highest in the nation at 7.3 percent.

If this bill is not enacted, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to run out of their current extended unemployment insurance benefits in October and 1.1 million U.S. workers could lose their benefits by the end of the year.

Companion legislation, H.R. 6867, has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.