March 25, 2014

Unemployed persons and their families are among the most vulnerable populations in the United States, often going for months without knowing from where their next paycheck will come. As the unemployed search for work, many rely on a federal program called Unemployment Insurance or “UI” that provides temporary wages (the benefit period for receiving UI varies by state, and the maximum period is 26 weeks). These wages help the unemployed provide food and shelter for themselves and their families during a period of financial uncertainty.

The Episcopal Church supports federal programs that work to reduce poverty, support workers’ efforts to achieve self-sufficiency, and ensure continuing benefits for those who need a safety net to feed their families. Unemployment Insurance is a proven example of an effective federal anti-poverty program; in 2012 alone, UI kept 1.7 million people from falling into poverty, including 446,000 children.

A key provision of the UI program is Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) that provides additional weeks of benefits when an unemployed person’s regular UI benefits expire before this person can find a job. EUC is only for people who are “able to work, available to work, and actively seeking work”. Unfortunately, the EUC program expired last December, leaving 1.3 million formerly eligible persons without benefits.

On March 13th, 2014, a bipartisan group of ten senators struck a deal that would extend the EUC program, and the Senate will likely vote on the deal this week. Should the EUC extension bill pass the Senate, it will be up to the House of Representatives to consider this crucial legislation. Congress must act swiftly to pass this EUC bill because every week, an additional 72,000 people go without benefits To see how many are affected in your state, go here.

Now is the time to contact your members of Congress and urge them to extend Emergency Unemployment Compensation so that the unemployed and their families can receive this critical assistance.