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Maryland needs federal unemployment insurance

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As our economy is continuing to recover, and new jobs are being created every day, President Obama reminds us that we still have much to do, as millions of Americans are working every day to find jobs. Until recently, people had been able to rely upon the safety net of federal unemployment insurance to help put food on the table and pay the rent.

However, Republicans in Congress have refused to extend unemployment insurance, leaving 1.7 million Americans without benefits, including more than 20,000 Marylanders. Approximately 70,000 more Americans lose their unemployment insurance each week that Congressional Republicans don’t choose to do what is right.

Once again the GOP is putting partisan politics over struggling American families. It is sad and disappointing that these lawmakers do not realize these are real people that rely upon this essential benefit as a lifeline. 

In 2012 alone, unemployment insurance lifted 2.5 million Americans out of poverty, and since 2008, 17 million children have been supported by unemployment benefits. Failing to extend benefits could slow our recovery and cost the economy 240,000 jobs this year. In 2011, the Congressional Budget Office found that funding for the unemployed was one of “the largest effects on output and employment per dollar of budgetary cost.”

And in communities of color, the need is ever greater. The unemployment rate for African-Americans – while on the decline – still remains higher than the national average. This is not acceptable. President Obama knows this, and Democrats across the country know this. Nationally, the unemployment rate among African-Americans has remained above 11% for more than four years. Renewing unemployment insurance will provide the crucial safety net that these families need to succeed.

Join me in calling on Republican Members of Congress to renew unemployment insurance. It is time to put an end to partisanship, work with Democrats and help our citizens who are searching for jobs.

Yvette Lewis is the chair of the Maryland Democratic Party.