The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

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The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Civil and Human Rights Coalition Calls for a 'Clean Extension' of Unemployment Benefits, Payroll Tax Cut

December 14, 2011 - Posted by Ron Bigler

With the financial security of millions of unemployed Americans on the line, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is calling on Congress to renew a payroll tax cut and extend emergency unemployment benefits for 12 months without adding unnecessary and harmful provisions.

The recent vote in the House of Representatives on a Republican bill would have, among other things, encouraged states to require drug testing of anyone seeking unemployment benefits.

In a letter to House members, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, and Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference,  said the drug testing language is "[p]articularly shameful" and called it "un-American to treat the poor, people of color, single parents, and young adults – all of whom are disproportionately unemployed in this economy – as criminals."

The focus now shifts to the Senate, where Democrats are in the majority but still must secure Republican votes to reach the 60 needed to end debate and move the bill to a final vote.

More than six million Americans are facing the potential loss of a financial lifeline if Congress fails to pass an extension of emergency unemployment benefits which expires on December 31.

Congress has extended long-term unemployment benefits nine times since 2008. However, conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation have been urging Congress not to renew the extension, with some making the argument that the benefits are too generous and keep people from seeking work. And some Republicans in Congress have been raising the issue of costs, demanding that an extension be offset by spending cuts elsewhere.

But as the National Employment Law Project (NELP) and others have pointed out, extended unemployment benefits are playing a vital role in boosting the economy and have kept millions of people from falling into poverty. NELP also notes that Congress has never let emergency unemployment benefits expire while the unemployment rate was above 7.2 percent. The national unemployment rate was 8.6 percent in November.

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