January 26, 2004

Wyden Redoubles Efforts to Extend Unemployment Benefits for Oregonians

Senator cosponsoring legislation to provide 13 additional weeks' coverage, help longer-term unemployed whose benefits have already expired

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today threw his support behind the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act (S. 2006), legislation to extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks or more for out-of-work Oregonians whose benefits have expired. Oregon has one of highest unemployment rates in the nation, and more Oregonians lose their benefits each week as their state unemployment insurance runs out. In addition to making 13 weeks of Federal funds available to those whose state benefits have or will soon run out, the legislation would also amend the current law - in a provision known as "lookback" - to provide workers in high-unemployment states like Oregon with additional weeks of assistance. As of December, Oregon's 7.3 percent unemployment rate was the second-highest in the nation, and more than a point and a half above the national average. "Thousands of Oregonians have been looking hard for jobs, and they just need to keep their families afloat a little longer until they find work," said Wyden. "Extending benefits and making sure that folks in high-unemployment states like ours get the extra assistance they deserve is the very least Congress should do." The most recent Federal unemployment benefit extension program ran out at the end of December. By January 20, 2004, 16,500 Oregonians had exhausted their state benefits, with no extended Federal benefits available to assist them further. Without Congressional action, a total of 23,500 Oregonians who have been receiving benefits will see them expire by March with no Federal backstop to follow. Immediate passage of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act will make Federal benefits available to those workers. In addition to cosponsoring S. 2006, Wyden has made job growth his first priority in appropriations work for the state. With U.S. Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), he recently announced $474 million in transportation appropriations for Oregon. That money is expected to create thousands of living-wage jobs on projects across Oregon.