DHN Letter to Senate: Extend UI/COBRA Benefits

March 29, 2010


Dear Senator,

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. Last week, the Senate failed to take an important step to enact a 30-day extension of unemployment insurance (UI) and subsidized COBRA coverage. In this time of economic crisis and high unemployment, we must step up and protect the most vulnerable among us, that is why we are calling on the Senate to pass the Continuing Extension Act of 2010 (H.R.4851), before it expires on April 5th.

Low-income and asset-poor families continue to be hit hardest during this recession because they lack the resources to weather the storm. UI and subsidized COBRA coverage ensure access to food, shelter, healthcare, medicine and other critical needs. With a national unemployment rate of 9.7 percent these federal programs, which unemployed workers can access after they have exhausted the 26 weeks of state benefits are critically important. Over 15.3 million workers are unemployed and a record 6.1 million have been unemployed for more than six months. UI provides a safety net for workers who are unable to find work in an economy where there is only one job opening for every 6.4 job seekers. These benefits determine whether a family falls deeper in to poverty or keeps its head above water.

Last month we saw what happens if these critical programs are allowed to expire: Unemployed workers and their families and communities just went through a period of unnecessary anguish, facing the end of unemployment insurance (UI) and subsidized COBRA coverage when the extension of these benefits was blocked. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers did see their benefits lapse. The recession has exposed our nation’s weaknesses and augmented families’ need for assistance to crisis levels. We cannot neglect the very programs which allow many families to get by. Congress has the responsibility to take action by sufficiently funding emergency programs like UI and subsidized COBRA coverage that many people rely on in a crisis. Congress should not neglect this responsibility and allow the program to lapse.

We must do so not only because it is the right thing to do but because helping families get back on their feet is good for the economic strength of individual communities and for our nation as a whole. We can no longer leave states and millions of people wondering from month to month whether or not their benefits or subsidized job will disappear. The Senate must act now.

Bread for the World
The Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Interfaith Worker Justice
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Lutheran Services in America
Mennonite Central Committee, Washington Office
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches of Christ, USA
National Council of Jewish Women
NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington Office
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
The United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society
Union for Reform Judaism