By | March 7, 2014

On February 6 the Senate failed yet again to pass an extension of Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), this time by one vote. Illinois’s own Senator Mark Kirk voted against the extension, despite Illinois’s 8.6% unemployment rate (third highest in the country), and polling that shows voter support for the extension. Sen. Kirk’s decisive nay vote means 230,500 Illinois residents will lose benefits if the extension isn’t reinstated by the end of the year. A ticker on the website of the House Ways and Means Committee shows that the total number of Americans missing out on benefits since they expired in December crossed 2,000,000 on Tuesday, March 4. Benefits are currently capped at 26 weeks.

In response to Sen. Kirk’s disappointing vote against extending EUC, 32 Illinois organizations sent him a letter coordinated by the Shriver Center urging him to support an extension of EUC the next time it comes to a vote. Letter co-signers later spoke with Kirk’s staff regarding the letter, and they confirmed that Sen. Kirk understands the importance of an EUC extension, especially considering Illinois’s high unemployment rate. Additionally, staff confirmed that Sen. Kirk is participating in negotiations to find an “offset” to the extension but that the “pension-smoothing” offset on the table in February was too much of a “gimmick” for him to accept. A similar “pension-smoothing” offset was used to help pay for the 2012 surface transportation reauthorization law (MAP-21). In the conversation, advocates urged Sen. Kirk to consider that the long-term unemployment rate currently stands at 2.3 percent and that Congress has never let EUC expire when the long-term unemployment rate was higher than 1.3 percent, nor had Congress ever conditioned such an extension on an offset.

In addition to the offset issue, amendments to EUC that would weaken the program and tighten eligibility requirements have begun to surface. Sen. Kirk’s staff confirmed that if an acceptable offset is found, Sen. Kirk would support the extension of EUC regardless of what happens with any amendments.

Some Democrats think that Speaker Boehner would have a difficult time holding up an extension of EUC in the House, with or without an offset.

Sen. Harry Reid has signaled that the extension of EUC may come to another vote as soon as this week. It imperative that Illinoisans speak up.  

Call Sen. Kirk’s Washington, D.C., office at: 877-363-6141 (toll-free number provided by AFSCME) and tell him to do what’s right for Illinois–extend Emergency Unemployment Compensation!

The message to Sen. Kirk is simple: Please support the extension of Emergency Unemployment Compensation the next time it comes to a vote.

Here are some additional talking points you can use:

  • Illinois’s unemployment rate is 8.6%, 30% higher than the national average of 6.6%.

  • As a result of Congress’ failure to extend EUC, 230,000 Illinoisans will have their unemployment benefits terminated in 2014.

  • The people who receive EUC are not slackers; they are victims of the slow recovery from the Great Recession. There is still only 1 job for every 3 jobseekers.

  • The long-term unemployment rate is 2.3% nationally. Congress has never before let EUC expire when long-term unemployment exceeded 1.3%.

  • Ending EUC damages the economy since jobless benefits go to people who will spend the funds quickly and generate the consumer spending we need to drive recovery, growth and job creation.


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