Chicago-area Clergy Call on Sen. Mark Kirk to Help Illinois’ Unemployed

Thanks to my friend Zach Schmidt at Bread for the World I’ve had the chance to add my name to the following letter to one of my senators about supporting the extension of emergency unemployment compensation.

March 7, 2014

Dear Senator Kirk,

As religious leaders, we are tasked with ensuring the needs of our communities—both spiritual and physical—are met. The long-term unemployed members of our communities—those who have been jobless longer than 26 weeks—are especially vulnerable as our nation continues its slow economic recovery, and there remains only one job for every three job-seekers.

In late December, the U.S. Congress allowed emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) to expire. When unemployment rates are high, lawmakers have always made provisions to help Americans until the economy returns to full employment—namely, by passing EUC. Today, the long-term unemployment rate remains twice as high as any time Congress has previously let EUC expire. Since December, the Senate has tried and failed twice to extend EUC, and you have voted “no” both times.

When you first voted “no” in January, you said the bill needed to be paid for and that you would vote for it if such a pay-for were included. Last week, you again voted “no” on extending EUC, even though the bill was completely paid for. At 8.9 percent, Illinois has the third highest rate of unemployment in the country, and so far 109,000 of our neighbors have lost these modest but vital benefits that help them put food on the table. Hundreds more are losing benefits each week.

For these reasons, we are saddened by your “no” votes on emergency unemployment compensation, and we ask you to vote “yes” next time—for the good of our communities and for the good of Illinois.

Visit the Bread blog to see the other clergy who have signed and let me know if you know of any other clergy or religious leaders who might be interested in signing.

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