"Witness Wednesdays" Advocates Stand in Solidarity with 3 Million Unemployed Americans Struggling to Find Jobs

-For Immediate Release-
June 11 at 12:30 p.m. EDT

Patricia Brooks, Center for Effective Government, pbrooks@foreffectivegov.org, (202) 351-1757
Brian Gumm, Center for Effective Government, bgumm@foreffectivegov.org, (202) 683-4812

"Witness Wednesdays" Advocates Stand in Solidarity with 3 Million Unemployed Americans Struggling to Find Jobs

Elected Officials, Faith, Labor, and Nonprofit Leaders Deliver Real Words and Sentiments from Long-Term Unemployed Americans Cut Off from Help

WASHINGTON, DC—Starting today and running until July 30, leaders and advocates from a wide range of backgrounds will gather weekly on the House Triangle in Washington, DC at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time for "Witness Wednesdays." There, they will read the stories of some of the 3 million long-term unemployed Americans who have lost federal unemployment benefits and call for action to help their fellow citizens.

This summer's "Witness Wednesdays" represent a national effort to push for passage of federal unemployment assistance for the long-term unemployed.

"We have never before turned our backs on Americans struggling to find work in a difficult economy. Unemployment assistance allows people to pay the rent, keep their utilities on, and have gas money as they search for work. This should not be a partisan issue – there are unemployed Republicans as well as unemployed Democrats, all of them hardworking Americans who are wondering why we've abandoned them in their time of need," said Katherine McFate, president and CEO of the Center for Effective Government.

"Every day the number of Americans harmed by the expiration of unemployment insurance grows," said Representative Sander Levin (D-MI). "They are desperately seeking new jobs, in many cases having exhausted their savings, seen their homes foreclosed on, let bills go unpaid, and run out of money needed to just put gas in their cars to go on an interview. In many cases their situation is dire, but their voices will not be quieted," Levin added.

"The cutoff of federal unemployment insurance benefits is devastating the lives of women and their families," said Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security, National Women's Law Center. "Jobless workers live every day with the pain in their children's eyes. Yet some Members of Congress are unmoved. They have refused to even vote on a bill to restore unemployment benefits—while they consider bills to extend far more costly corporate tax breaks," Entmacher concluded.

"Long-term unemployment is a continuing national crisis, and the continued failure of Congress to respond to it is unconscionable," said Christine L. Owens, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project. "The American people have given up on expecting much from this Congress, but at the least Congress should provide vitally needed income support for those struggling Americans."

"We call upon Congress to act now to restore unemployment insurance for millions of workers – we must not abandon them," said Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director at the Coalition on Human Needs.

"Witness Wednesdays" is organized by the Center for Effective Government, the National Employment Law Project, the Coalition on Human Needs, and National Women's Law Center. Those attending one or more of the events include:

  • Members of Congress: Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI)

  • Union Leaders: Liz Schuler (AFL-CIO), Ed Jayne (AFSCME), and others

  • Faith and Nonprofit Leaders: Christine Owens (National Employment Law Project), Debbie Weinstein (Coalition on Human Needs), Joan Entmacher, (National Women's Law Center), Katherine McFate (Center for Effective Government), Sister Marge Clark (NETWORK), Stacy Martin (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), Imam Yahya Hendi (Georgetown University), Eddie Carmona (PICO National Network)

"Witness Wednesdays" will take place on consecutive Wednesdays from June 11-July 30 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. on the House Triangle located at the Capitol's East Front (just off of New Jersey Ave. SE and Independence Ave. SE). You can also follow the event on Twitter @ForEffectiveGov using the hashtag #RenewUI or via live stream at www.witnesswednesdays.org. Note that the June 25 event will begin at 3 p.m., and there will be no event on Wednesday, July 2 due to the Independence Day holiday on July 4.

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NOTE TO EDITORS: Federal emergency unemployment benefits ended on Dec. 28, 2013. In April, the Senate passed a bill providing five months of benefits, but House leadership denied a vote on the Senate bill, causing that legislation to expire.

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