DHN Letter to Congress: Strongly Support Unemployment Insurance
Our religious traditions and scriptures affirm the inherent dignity of all human beings. All of us are called to help our brothers and sisters in need. Despite a slight increase in job creation over the past few months, unemployed workers are still struggling to make ends meet. The national unemployment rate is 8.3%. 12.8 million workers are without a job and a startling 5.5 million have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more.
This population will suffer greatly if Congress does not extend unemployment insurance benefits for a full year when the two month extension expires on February 29th. The signed faith organizations have long supported the extension of federal unemployment insurance benefits to the jobless and urges Congress to pass a clean extension—free of barriers to access, such as drug testing and education requirements—as soon as possible.
In addition to a clean extension, it is critically important that the selected offsets do not increase the vulnerability of low-income individuals. For example, we oppose the proposal to keep immigrants who use the ITIN (Individual Tax payer Identification Number) from receiving the Child Tax Credit refunds. This is an unwise, harsh punishment that would harm up to 4 million children and their communities. Many immigrants pay taxes using their ITIN because they are not yet eligible for Social Security numbers. The I.R.S. accepts their tax payments and allows families to claim the Child Tax Credit. This policy has effectively protected children, many of whom are American-born citizens, from poverty.
Low-income and asset-poor families were hit hardest during the recession and continue to struggle during the recovery because they lacked the resources to weather the storm and lack the resources now to easily bounce back. Unemployment insurance ensures access to food, shelter, healthcare, medicine and other critical needs. In addition, these benefits are proven to be stimulative to local economies. Economists estimate that the economy grows by $1.61 for every dollar spent on unemployment benefits because most recipients spend all their benefit payments quickly. The U.S. Census Bureau also reports that in 2010 alone, unemployment benefits kept 3.2 million Americans from falling into poverty.
Besides a clean extension, we urge you to reject any attempts to cut the number of weeks recipients can receive benefits. Considering the large number of long-term unemployed, we urge Congress to keep the full duration of coverage at 99 weeks.
Scripture tells us, “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.”Deuteronomy 15:7-8. We hope you and your colleagues will heed what our shared texts guide us to do and will stand with us in strongly supporting the unemployed by passing a clean one-year extension of unemployment insurance benefits.
American Friends Service Committee
Bread for the World
Church of the Brethren
Disciples Justice Action Network
The Episcopal Church
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Interfaith Worker Justice
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Jewish Women
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) Office of Public Witness
Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Team
Union for Reform Judaism
The United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society
The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries