Transcript: Remarks by Sen. Jeff Merkley on the Senate bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits for 3 months

Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) on S. 1845, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act. The press briefing was held on Jan. 7, 2014:

On Dec. 28, 18,000 families in Oregon got a lump of coal in their stockings when we failed to reauthorize the emergency unemployment program. And in the course of this coming year, we’re going to see another 58,000 Oregon families affected.

And then we have a broader economy in Oregon – the estimates are that this action would eliminate about 4,000 jobs. Well, I can tell you that the citizens in Oregon want to see us create jobs, not destroy jobs.

And so in this case, we have a win-win for the families themselves, a stronger foundation or a stronger bridge to the next job in areas of high unemployment, and something that is helping the broader economy at the same time.

This was a bipartisan program developed under President Bush. Today – this morning – we had a bipartisan vote to debate the bill, and now we have to make sure we have a bipartisan support to actually reauthorize this program and take those lumps of coal out of the stockings.

This weekend I was doing town halls in Oregon and four of them were in rural areas. And there’s higher unemployment in rural areas across America. The average unemployment in Oregon is now about 7.3%, but in 3 counties, almost 12%. And so the time it takes to get another job is much longer and that’s true in high unemployment states and that’s true across the country.

…But let’s understand there’s a fundamental viewpoint here. When families are down, are they going to get a helping hand and a bridge to the next job or are they going to get kicked while they’re down? And I think the helping hand – the bipartisan helping hand – is what we have to develop and get reauthorized with new speed.

Thank you.

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