To tackle our nation’s ongoing jobs crisis, the AFL-CIO has put forth a five-point plan to put people back to work and restore our economy. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka presented this five-part plan at the White House Jobs Summit last week.
The first step in this plan is to extend a lifeline to the people who have been hit the hardest by the jobs crisis. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, unemployment benefits were extended for millions of workers. Those who lost jobs got added food aid and assistance in getting COBRA health coverage. That was the right policy—but even as the crisis continues, those benefits are expiring.
Unless Congress acts now, supplemental unemployment benefits, additional food assistance and expansion of COBRA benefits will expire at the end of the year. When more than one in 10 people are out of work and millions more are underemployed, that’s unacceptable.
That means families who are hit by this jobs crisis are now at risk of bankruptcy, foreclosure and dire poverty. Extending these benefits won’t just keep families out of crisis. It will keep foreclosures from devastating neighborhoods and increase confidence and boost the consumer spending we need to keep our economy afloat.
Unemployed people who get this much-needed assistance can support businesses in their communities. Our economy can’t recover if the millions who are out of a job can’t put food on the table, stay in their homes and provide for their families.
Rudy Martinez, a heat and frost insulator from Minnesota who is out of work thanks to the slow economy, puts it well when he says he and his neighbors need help to be part of a strong economy:
I’m afraid to spend money because of how long I’m going to be laid off. Nobody wants to spend until they see something good happen.
This isn’t just an economic imperative—it’s a moral imperative. Too many children are coming to school hungry, hurting their academic achievement and their long-term success. Thousands of houses are foreclosed every day, robbing people of the time and money they’ve invested in their homes and communities. Without COBRA coverage, unemployed workers are at risk of medical bankruptcy.
With our economy struggling to recover from this crisis, we can’t afford to leave families behind. Let’s extend unemployment insurance, COBRA benefits and food aid to those who desperately need them.