At the end of last week, both the Senate and the House of Representatives provided for the extension of unemployment benefits.  However, the House extension is only for five weeks while the Senate version is 13 weeks.  With this discrepancy still unresolved, around December 28th, 45,400 unemployed workers in Washington state will have their benefits cut off.  The only way to extend unemployment past its current deadline is to have the House pass the Senate's package today before adjourning today until January. 

“While the extension that we were able to pass last week was certainly a step in the right direction, it is by no means a comprehensive victory for Washington state.  We need to make sure that Washington’s families will not just make it through the tough holiday season, but also have greater economic security until they can get themselves back on track in the new year,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Tacoma).  “We’ve got to get some help for our state to make it through the winter.”

Washington state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, and layoffs and budget cuts are being announced daily around the state.  Faced with the overwhelming impact of a failure to further extend unemployment, the entire Washington delegation united to send a letter to Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Speaker of the House, and Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), Minority Leader, urging them to bring the Senate’s legislation to the floor of the House and pass it.  The text of the letter follows.

Dear Mr. Speaker and Leader Gephardt:

As Senators and Members of Congress from Washington state, we implore you to bring to the floor and pass the Senate’s legislation to continue the full Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation program for another three months, until March 29, 2003.  The House must not adjourn without passing legislation that would extend these critical benefits for thousands of American families.

Washington state has one of the highest levels of unemployment.   Our economy has become one of the hardest hit by the fallout of September 11th, and the lack of consumer confidence and demand.  Several counties we represent have double-digit unemployment rates, and new layoffs are announced daily. 

As you know, the Senate passed its 13-week extension unanimously.  While we applaud the House’s efforts to pass a five-week extension last week, we must take up and pass the Senate’s 13 week-extension legislation, in order to continue to provide benefits for 800,000 Americans who will lose their benefits on December 28, 2002 and for over 90,000 who will lose them during each week that follows. 

The 107th Congress must not end, with members heading home for the holidays, while thousands do not know if they will make it through winter.  American workers, their families, and the U.S. economy need your help. 

We respectfully request your assistance with securing and extending Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation by passing the Senate’s 13-week extension before we bring the 107th Congress to a close.