WASHINGTON – Meei Shi Child has been out of a job for almost a year. Without her unemployment checks, she wouldn’t be able to care for her 3-year-old daughter and 91-year-old mother-in-law.
She is not alone: The Chevy Chase resident is one of more than 78,000 residents receiving benefits from the Maryland Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
“Meei Shi puts a face on the over 1 million Americans who stand to lose their unemployment benefits if we do not extend the unemployment benefits beyond the end of this month,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., at a news conference Wednesday.
Child joined Cardin and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to discuss the benefits and importance of the Senate Democratic jobs agenda for out-of-work Americans and small businesses.
The senators said more job-focused legislation is needed, especially the American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act, also known as the American Workers Act.
The legislation would extend tax provisions, federal assistance and programs like health care, financial support to hard-hit states and unemployment benefits to the end of 2010.
“My unemployment check has become a vital safety net for me and my family in helping us keep our heads above water,” Child said. “Unemployment benefits (are) a lifeline, not just a hand-out.”
Schumer expects final passage on the bill Wednesday, he said.
“Passing these long-term extensions is crucial to millions of Americans whose benefits would otherwise expire,” Schumer said. “It would be cruel and inhumane to tell these people that their unemployment benefits expired.”
Maryland unemployment benefits last a maximum of 26 weeks before any federal extension funding is given.
Last month, the Senate passed the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act, or HIRE, in a bipartisan effort.
The act offers tax exemptions to employers who hire full-time workers who have been out of work for more than 60 days. The act also extends a $1,000 income tax credit for every new worker employed for 52 weeks.
“We’re not satisfied with passing one bill,” Schumer said. “We are pursuing a jobs agenda, and the HIRE Act was just the beginning.”
They hope the Americans Workers Act will follow, they said, and without hard resistance from Republicans, who have opposed a number of bills, including health care reform.
“Unemployment is not a red state or blue state problem,” Schumer said. “It’s an American problem.”
The Senate Democrats hope Republicans will work with them and find a solution quickly, Cardin said.
However, some Republicans think that spending money will only increase the burden on their children.
Binge-spending Democrats are creating a bigger debt for future generations, said Audrey Scott, chairwoman of the Maryland Republican Party.
“Over 300 million jobs have been lost in the United States since Congress passed the stimulus bill last year, and more than 50,000 in Maryland alone,” said Scott. “It is clear that one-party rule does not work in Washington or Annapolis. And voters are desperately seeking responsible voices that will provide an alternative to free spending Democrats.”
As of January, the state’s unemployment rate hit 8.3 percent, a 1.2 percent increase from last month, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
Maryland’s unemployment rate is the highest it has been in five years, but is still lower than the national average.
“There (are) millions of us who desperately want to work, but just cannot find jobs,” Child said. “We don’t want unemployment checks. We want jobs.”