Faith leaders from the Circle of Protection walk to a meeting with White House staff.
Photo: Laura Pohl for Bread for the World
Washington, D.C., January 27, 2014
Christian Leaders Concerned over Expiration of Emergency Unemployment Benefits
Leaders of the Circle of Protection, a group of Christian leaders from various denominations and organizations, are urging Congress to extend federal emergency unemployment benefits as it resumes its sessions today.
“With 10.4 million people unemployed and three job seekers for every job opening, a moral obligation exists to help protect the life and dignity of unemployed workers and their families,” Christian leaders wrote members of Congress. “Just days after Christmas, 1.3 million unemployed workers were cut off from emergency unemployment assistance. It is time to correct this wrong.”
Earlier this month, the Senate voted to advance legislation that would extend emergency unemployment for the 1.3 million people who lost their benefits on Dec. 28. The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act (S. 1845) narrowly passed by a vote of 60-37. The House of Representatives has not yet passed a similar bill.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, federal unemployment insurance kept 1.7 million people, including 446,000 children, out of poverty in 2012. However, even with recent economic growth, there are still 1.2 million fewer jobs than at the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008. The unemployment rate remains 44 percent higher than it was at the start of the recession. Nearly two-fifths of unemployed people, or nearly 4 million people, have been looking for work for more than six months.
Some members of Congress have proposed cutting other important low-income programs to pay for unemployment insurance benefits. In their letter, the Christian leaders ask lawmakers to refrain from cutting such benefits like the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit, which kept more than 10 million people, including 5.3 million children, out of poverty in 2012.
Quotes from Christian Leaders:
“The Episcopal Church stands in solidarity with our nation’s most vulnerable persons, including children, undocumented persons, and the unemployed. We believe that extending unemployment insurance without harming other human needs programs is critical to both a thriving economy and a healthy citizen community.” – Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of government relations, The Episcopal Church
“It is a shame that some members of Congress have proposed cutting earned income tax credits and child tax credits to fund the extension of the emergency unemployment insurance. These are among our best anti-poverty programs we have to offer struggling families. Cutting them is like robbing Peter to pay Paul.” – David Beckmann, president, Bread for the World
“Unemployment benefits help protect families on the brink from falling into chronic poverty and homelessness. Extending this protection is an important step on the road to economic recovery for the family and for the nation.” – Galen Carey, vice president for government relations, National Association of Evangelicals
“Job hunting is a difficult and time-consuming task, even in the best of times. It is an impossible task to do while homeless and on an empty stomach. Unemployment assistance helps people get back on the job by meeting their very basic needs while they seek employment. People of faith call on our nation’s leaders to extend unemployment benefits, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it benefits the whole community.” – Stacy Martin, director of policy and advocacy, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
“We need an economy that works for everyone. This means creating more jobs and helping those who’ve fallen on hard times get back on their feet. As both parties start a broader conversation on addressing poverty in America, extending unemployment benefits is the clear first step.” – Jim Wallis, president and founder, Sojourners
“This is a moment for our nation’s leaders to choose to provide assistance for those seeking employment or to leave them at winter’s mercies. Scripture repeatedly calls on national leaders to care for those in need. Unemployment assistance will not only benefit those in need; it is a means for caring for the whole community.” – Jim Winkler, president and general secretary, National Council of Churches