Friday, November 14, 2003
For Immediate Release
Walden Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Allow Oregon to Continue Receiving Extended Emergency Unemployment Benefits
Entire Oregon House delegation cosponsors legislation to change "look back" rule preventing extension of temporary unemployment benefits for Oregon; Oregon Department of Employment endorses Walden measure
WASHINGTON, DC– U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) today introduced bipartisan legislation to remove an obstacle that threatens to prevent unemployed Oregonians from receiving an extended period of emergency federal unemployment benefits. The members of Oregon’s House delegation – Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Darlene Hooley (D-OR), David Wu (D-OR) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) – as well as Washington Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-WA), have all cosponsored Walden’s legislation.
Under current law, unemployed workers receive 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits, after which the federal Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation (TUEC) program provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits. Workers in states with exceptionally high unemployment rates like Oregon are eligible to receive a second 13 weeks of TEUC benefits. The criteria for these extended benefits include having a statewide total unemployment rate that is 6.5% or higher and experiencing a growth in unemployment of at least 10% as compared to the same 3 month period in one of the previous two years. This provision unfairly penalizes states like Oregon, where the preceding year’s high unemployment rate creates a threshold that may disqualify the state from receiving special benefits despite continued unemployment rates that are far in excess of the national average. Walden’s legislation (HR 3487) would eliminate the 10% requirement and allow Oregon to continue receiving emergency extended benefits.
"This legislation is absolutely critical to ensure that a strong safety net continues to be in place so out-of-work Oregonians can provide for their families while they look for work," said Walden. "If left unchanged, this rule would penalize Oregon simply because our extremely high unemployment rate has leveled off without continuing to rise. The provision only allows the federal program to help states with rising unemployment rates and not states likes Oregon, where the rate is consistently high but hasn’t fluctuated much recently. It would be unconscionable to allow thousands of people to suffer simply because of an arbitrary, unreasonable rule. I’m pleased my House colleagues from Oregon have recognized the need to make this rule change and supported my legislation. I’ll continue to work closely with them and the State of Oregon to ensure that Oregonians get the benefits they deserve."
"Congress has a responsibility before it adjourns for the holidays to protect the thousands of Oregonians who stand to lose their unemployment benefits under the unfair 'look back' rule," said DeFazio. "Oregon's unemployment rate remains, as it has for two years, the highest in the nation. The many Oregonians and millions of Americans who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves on the wrong side of this jobless recovery need assistance from this Congress.
The Oregon Department of Employment also endorsed the measure in a letter sent to Walden today. Greg Hickman, the Acting Director of the Department of Unemployment, said that without allowing Oregon to continue receiving federal extended benefits, approximately 9,400 Oregonians receiving extended TEUC benefits would no longer be eligible for the program.
Walden wrote to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) earlier this week urging that the 10% rule change be made to protect Oregon’s unemployed workers. Walden has also joined a number of Northwest lawmakers in urging the House leadership to extend the temporary unemployment benefits program, which is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2003, before Congress adjourns for the year.
Oregon continues to suffer the nation’s highest unemployment rate with 8% of its workforce without jobs, a distinction the state has held for more than a year. Oregon’s monthly unemployment rates have hovered around 8% for the past two months. However, due to a potential modest reduction in Oregon’s unemployment rate in the coming month, the state is likely to lose eligibility for special extended federal unemployment benefits unless Walden’s legislation becomes law. Current Oregon Department of Employment figures show that 138,724 Oregonians are out-of-work.
A county-by-county breakdown of unemployment rates in the Second District during September 2003 (the most recent figures available) follows:
Baker: 7.0% Klamath: 7.9%
Crook: 8.1% Lake: 6.2%
Deschutes: 6.3% Malheur: 5.9%
Gilliam: 5.2% Morrow: 7.2%
Grant: 5.5% Sherman: 9.5%
Harney: 8.8% Umatilla: 5.3%
Hood River: 5.9% Union: 4.7%
Jackson: 6.2% Wallowa: 5.8%
Jefferson: 5.6% Wasco: 9.1%
Josephine: 7.9% Wheeler: 7.2%
TO VIEW A COPY OF THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT LETTER ENDORSING WALDEN’S LEGISLATION, CLICK HERE: http://walden.house.gov/press/releases/2003/11Nov/teuc111403.pdf.
Congressman Walden represents the Second Congressional District of Oregon, which includes the 20 counties of central, southern and eastern Oregon. He is a Deputy Whip and member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Committee on Resources.