Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

January 7, 2014

Act now to save unemployment benefits for Maryland residents

As families across Maryland gathered to celebrate the New Year, too many were met with uncertainty and anxiety as a result of a draconian cut in unemployment insurance.

Unemployment insurance is a social contract and it is a social compact. It’s an insurance people pay into so that when you hit a speed bump and are laid off through no fault of your own, there will be a safety net so that you do not fall.

In Maryland, 23,000 people have lost their unemployment insurance. Unemployment insurance is not lavish.

The average is $300 a week, covering less than half of household costs. In our state, that’s enough to pay electricity, rent and food. It’s insurance that’s meant to be a safety net as families get back on their feet.

Unemployment insurance is a partnership between the federal government and state governments that provides a temporary benefit to qualified workers who lose their jobs and are seeking work.

Employers pay into this program through federal and state taxes, affecting the total compensation for employees.

Over the past six years, this insurance has been a critical lifeline for 188,000 Marylanders.

Unemployment insurance is not only a safety net for families, it’s a smart investment for our economy.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that preserving this insurance during periods of historically high unemployment is among the most cost-effective ways to reduce joblessness and stimulate the economy.

And a new study by the Council of Economic Advisers and the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the failure to renew unemployment insurance could cost the American economy 240,000 jobs this year, including 3,462 in Maryland.

I believe that in America, if you work hard and play by the rules, the rules should be on your side.

As the Senate convenes again in Washington, our first order of business will be to take up and debate the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act.

This bipartisan legislation I cosponsored would provide a short-term extension of unemployment insurance as Congress works on a long-term solution.

I will never stop fighting to make sure Marylanders have a government on their side when they need it most.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

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