The following are Rev. Larry Snyder’s remarks during the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing on Thursday, December 5, 2013, entitled “Expiring Unemployment Insurance: A Financial Cliff Facing 1.3 Million Americans.” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, members of the House Democratic Caucus, and Americans benefiting from this program highlighted its importance and underscored the harm Americans will confront if unemployment insurance benefits are allowed to expire on December 28.
“Leader Pelosi, Congresswoman DeLauro, and Congressman Andrews, and other members of the committee: Good morning and thank you for holding this important hearing to focus on the issue of extending the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Benefits. I am grateful for the opportunity to offer a few remarks and the perspective of non-profits who provide help to Americans in need.
“Catholic Charities throughout our country serves around 10 million people every year, which is about one in four persons living in poverty. That is why this is such an important issue for us. We don’t want to see those numbers increase.
“In less than 20 days, millions across the country will gather with family to celebrate Christmas and the holidays. Yet, only days after marking the holiday with family and loved ones, more than one million Americans may lose this vital benefit if it is not renewed and their ability to provide for family may be in jeopardy.
“Unemployment insurance benefits are a vital lifeline for unemployed workers and their families. It is the difference between continuing to have housing and also having enough food to eat. This is especially true for children and some veterans.
“It serves as a bridge when a temporary job loss is experienced. Without it, individuals can easily slip into poverty. Extending this benefit is simply a wiser investment of dollars until our economy is robust enough to create sufficient employment opportunities for those looking for work.
“Behind the statistic of millions of jobless workers are men and women who have worked their whole lives and who take pride in being a contributing member of their communities. They are our neighbors and our extended family members.
“Let there be no mistake that the people who receive this benefit are people who have worked every day. They want and need the dignity of work to allow them to provide for themselves and their families.
“Unemployment is not the life these individuals seek, nor is it the one they want. They want to continue moving toward the American dream and it is incumbent on all of us to do everything that we can to ensure that a robust economy and good paying jobs are the long term solutions.
“At Catholic Charities, we see firsthand what choices unemployed Americans face as they look for work, leaving them and their families vulnerable as they continue to search for jobs.
“The impact of unemployment extends beyond individuals and families, to communities and neighborhoods. High unemployment and poverty go hand in hand, and the characteristics of poor neighborhoods amplify the impact of unemployment. This benefit is an investment to keep our communities healthy.
“When the workforce and economy take a hit as we have seen these last several years, social service agencies are often the first to feel the impact. For example, within days of this fall’s government shutdown, Catholic Charities agencies were immediately reporting the increased need in their community as a result of the changed employment situation of federal workers.
“While Catholic Charities remains committed to helping families get back on their feet as they search for work, we can only be a small part of the solution.
“It is understandable that this benefit should not be extended permanently. But as a nation, we should not pull the rug out from under the Americans who continue to look for work in this economy that is ever so slow to recover. We can understand having limits, but we have to take into account the reality of the depth of the current setback in the economy.
“Our Catholic tradition teaches us that society, acting through government, has a special obligation to consider first the needs of the poor and vulnerable.
“Pope Francis, has called on us, numerous times, to recognize the needs of our neighbors and to make responding to those needs a priority.
“To paraphrase Pope Francis, in his recently released statement The Joy of the Gospel:
“It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare. I am firmly convinced that openness to the transcendent can bring about a new political and economic mindset which would help to break down the wall of separation between the economy and the common good of society.
“I urge Congress to do the same.
“The challenge here today is for Congress to work together and support a bipartisan effort to ensure that our neighbors do not go without by extending this benefit in this time of great need for so many.
“While nothing can take the place of a good-paying job, ensuring that out-of-work Americans have the support they need to put food on the table and maintain a roof over their heads while they continue their search for employment is the decent and right thing to do. Thank you.”
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