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UI Benefits Extension Doesn’t Share Sacrifice

The House (293-132) and the Senate (60-36) passed legislation today to extend federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and the payroll tax cut. UI benefits were set to expire Feb. 29 and the legislation that President Obama will sign extends the program for the nation’s nearly 13 million jobless workers through the end of the year.

In letter to lawmakers this morning, the AFL-CIO said that not extending UI and the payroll tax cut would compound the hardship of jobless families and jeopardize the recent signs of job growth.

But the bill not only reduces the number of weeks of benefits for the unemployed, it unfairly penalizes federal workers. “Shared sacrifice should start at the top, with a surtax on millionaires, not with unemployed workers or middle-class working families. The AFL-CIO does not support the bill.”

Here is the full text of the letter:

Dear Representative:
Federal unemployment benefits and the temporary payroll tax cut need to be extended through the end of this year because the jobs crisis is far from over and the economic recovery is still fragile.  Withdrawal of these critical economic supports would compound the already unacceptable hardship of jobless families and jeopardize the recent promising signs of job growth.  By contrast, the conference report for H.R. 3630 would reduce the number of weeks of unemployment benefits available for unemployed workers and gratuitously penalizing federal employees.
Any offset to this package will reduce its effectiveness in stimulating economic growth and creating jobs, and for this reason federal extended benefits have historically not been offset.  However, if there has to be an offset in this bill, it should be a surtax on incomes over $1 million.  Republicans in Congress have insisted on protecting millionaires at the expense of jobless workers and middle income working class Americans.
Unemployed workers and federal employees continue to be blamed for problems they did not cause.  Meanwhile, the people who did cause the crash of 2008, from which our economy is still slowly recovering, have largely gotten off scot free.  Shared sacrifice should start at the top, with a surtax on millionaires, not with unemployed workers or middle class working families who provide vital services to the federal government.
For all of these reasons, the AFL-CIO cannot support H.R. 3630.

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