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   Though Nation's Unemployment Rate Is Increasing, Benefits Are Set To Expire May 31


Though Nation’s Unemployment Rate Is Increasing, Benefits Are Set To Expire May 31

Special to the Chronicle

Congressman Ben Cardin Urges Quick Action by Congress to Extend Benefits to Help 4 Million Jobless Workers
On May 2, U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) demanded that the House of Representatives take action to help the increasing number of unemployed Americans find jobs and get needed unemployment insurance when jobs are not available. The Department of Labor (DOL) announced on that same day that the U.S. economy lost 48,000 jobs in April and the overall unemployment rate increased from 5.8% to 6%. The economy has lost 525,000 jobs over the last three months, and in excess of 4 million jobs in the past year.

Rep. Cardin, leading Democrat on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, declared, "There is no excuse for discontinuing unemployment benefits when jobs are scarce. Unfortunately, our Republican friends seem to be looking for a reaso—any reason—to end benefits for dislocated workers. Most recently, they conducted a hearing designed to suggest that unemployment benefits are actually causing unemployment."

”Most recently, [our Republican friends] conducted a hearing designed to suggest that unemployment benefits are actually causing unemployment," said Cardin.

The Congressman, along with Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY, has sponsored legislation to extend unemployment benefits for all dislocated workers. The Rangel-Cardin bill (H.R. 1652) would help nearly 4 million jobless Americans over the next six months. It would continue the extended benefits program for an additional six months, increase the amount of benefits to 26 weeks, include coverage for the one million workers who have already exhausted their extended benefits, and expand unemployment insurance coverage for low-wage and part-time workers. If such legislation is not enacted, the extended benefits program will expire on May 31, leading to millions of families being denied needed unemployment insurance benefits.

Reps. Cardin and Rangel also have proposed a new initiative to encourage businesses to hire unemployed workers. This measure calls for a targeted tax cut that directly helps the long-term unemployed get new jobs. The tax credit would be the same as the current Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), but it would give employers an immediate incentive to hire Americans not normally covered under the WOTC but who have been unemployed at least six months. Under this proposal, a company creating a job for an unemployed person would get a tax credit worth up to $2,400 (40% of the first $6,000 in annual wages).

"In combination, these two proposals will help struggling families, promote jobs, and stimulate the economy," said Rep. Cardin in a prepared statement to the press.

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This story was published on May 13, 2003.
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