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Unemployed Americans Plead for Senate Republicans to Do Their Jobs and Extend Emergency Unemployment Compensation

WASHINGTON, DC – This morning, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) convened a listening session to hear directly from Americans receiving Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) who need the lifeline extended to make ends meet during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny K. Davis (D-IL) and many other Ways and Means Democrats also participated in the conversation to share personal stories and pleas for help they’ve received from constituents. House Democrats passed legislation to extend the FPUC through January 2021 over 10 weeks ago as part of the Heroes Act. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans proposed to slash unemployment benefits and then recessed the Senate for the weekend on Thursday.

Chairman Neal spoke of Martha, a Springfield, Massachusetts resident who has endured extraordinary challenges. In 2019, Martha tragically lost one of her children to cancer. In March of this year, a fire destroyed her home. Before the pandemic, Martha provided house cleaning and nanny services. She is a single mom, and she says that the end of these emergency benefits could cause her to lose the home she has now.

The workers in the discussion explained that they want to work, but due to the pandemic and its effects, they’re unable to safely return to their jobs and need this temporary assistance until the COVID-19 crisis recedes.

Tia Ferguson, from Ohio: “I have underlying health conditions that make me susceptible to the worst that COVID-19 gives us, and it makes it impossible for me to work in the jobs that are hiring right now. So much of what this virus brings is uncertain, and this uncertainty is exhausting. That is why we are looking to you. We are looking to our fellow citizens that we have entrusted to have our best interests at heart to lead us out of this plague. Let me make this point clear: We do not want Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, we need Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and there lies the huge difference. Extending the $600 a week benefit means that my children do not need to lose their childhood home within months of losing their baby brother. It means that within a global health crisis, the water is still running in our home so that we can wash our hands, stay clean, and do our part to curtail the spread of this virus.”

Jackilyn Lopez, from Arizona: “I was furloughed on March 17, and I started receiving unemployment insurance in the first week of April. The $600, which is less than half of what I make, has helped my family, my husband, my toddler, myself. With the money, I’m able to pay for groceries, medical bills, car payments, utilities, mortgage, and necessary items for our toddler like diapers and healthy food items like milk, fruits, and vegetables. Without the $600, my family’s budget would be extremely difficult to manage. It would be difficult to pay our mortgage. I’m also pregnant and will incur a lot of medical bills when our baby is born in a couple of weeks. We’ll struggle to pay for the necessary items with one more mouth to feed.”

Artavia Milliam, from New York: “I know some people think the $600 is too much and that people should not earn more on unemployment than what they did when they worked. What those people don’t understand is how much more expensive it has been during the pandemic, and I was already living check-to-check…  With the federal unemployment ending this week, I am worried and have been looking at things to cut from my budget. It’s hard when you’re already living your life on bare bones.”

Nura Moshtael, from Georgia: “Now that the boost is ending, obviously, it is terrifying. I’ve had to make a decision for our life in Atlanta to come to an end for now. I don’t know what I would do without having that to fall back on. There are fewer job opportunities outside the city in Georgia, and I’ve also had to struggle to keep up with my student loans… I wish more policymakers prioritized the needs of families like ours. Working moms are juggling a lot right now. We need more support. We have to make the decision of whether to stay home with our families or be out at risk, risking our health and our lives. That’s not a decision that any American should have to make right now, it’s beyond our control. We need Republicans in Congress to do the right thing and extend the federal boost to unemployment as well as provide financial relief so that we can stay afloat until we’re on the other side.”

Mary Proffitt, from Kentucky: “Since May 15, I have had no income other than making masks and selling masks for $20 apiece. That’s how I’ve been feeding my son and myself, and that’s how we’ve been keeping safe. It’s pretty disheartening to be this age and to hear Republican Senators say that we’re making bank or we’re lazy or we don’t want to go to work, because I have never not worked in my life… I’m grateful that I own my own home, but I could lose it. I’m one hospital bill away from losing my home. I’m barely keeping the lights on and I’m barely feeding my 12-year-old.”

Alan Segel, from Massachusetts: “My doctor has given me a letter and says he does not want me driving (rideshare), he said, you’re taking your life in your hands. So the question I have, and I’m scared of it, if people come after me money-wise, do I go back to driving and put my life in my hands? I’m scared to make that choice. Because to tell you the truth, I like living, and I want to keep living. And if the Republicans in the Senate and the House don’t understand that we’re not out here collecting money just for the sake of being unemployed, we need it. We need it to survive, we need it to make choices so that we can live. I just wish that they could hear these stories and understand where we’re coming from.”

Allegra Troiano, from Wisconsin: “My unemployment payments, including the $600, total $825 per week. That allows me to pay my mortgage, my utilities, my car payment, my food, and $609 payment to COBRA. Without that additional $600 per week, I will only receive $225, which won’t even cover half my mortgage. None of us asked to be laid off. None of us want to be sitting at home, waiting for this pandemic to die down.”

Magdalena Valiente, from Florida: “If I stop getting the $600 payment, I will not be able to feed my child, I will not be able to pay my rent, I will pretty much be homeless. Which is heartbreaking, because I’ve been working on my business for over 30 years. I’ve worked very hard to build this career and I adore what I do. I’ve never not worked. It’s very, very difficult. So I’m really begging you to help us continue with this so we can get through it. When it’s safe for me to go to work, I’ll be the first one back.”

The entire listening session can be viewed HERE.

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