PHILADELPHIA – Unemployed workers and their supporters rallied here Oct. 4 to call for the extension of the federal Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation (TEUC) Program, which will expire Dec. 31.

“Twenty-six weeks is not enough,” shouted the Philadelphia Unemployment Project (PUP) members and others as they marched in front of the Pennsylvania Career Links Office. The protesters’ signs said, “The Recession Is Not Over” and “We Demand Jobs Now!”

The TEUC Program was enacted in March and provides, for most unemployed workers, 13 additional weeks of federal benefits on top of their 26 weeks of state benefits. The demonstrators carried signs supporting Senate Bill 2892, which would continue the TEUC Program until July 2003, extend benefits for 26 weeks, and increase checks by 15 percent. The TEUC Program will affect 3 million workers nationally, over 125,000 in Pennslyvania and over 132,000 in New Jersey.

Some unemployed workers spoke at the rally. Allen Singletary, an assistant manager before he was laid off, said, “I can’t find a job, and my life has been turned upside down. A lot of other people are in the same position as I am. How can President Bush talk about spending billions on war when people here need jobs? He should be looking after his own country.”

Darlene Brooks, a social worker, lost her job as a drug abuse counselor when the program she worked in lost its funding. “Congress must pass the Kennedy Bill to extend unemployment benefits,” said Brooks, referring to SB-2892. “Philadelphia’s unemployment rate of 7.7 percent is far higher than the national rate. We are in a recession right now and we need help.”

One unemployed technician was told that he was overqualified by one employer and not qualified by another. Julia, an unemployed worker, exclaimed, “Bush, take care of your people. What about the rest of us?”

A press conference followed to release the findings of a long-term study of unemployment in Pennslyvania and New Jersey. John Dodd, PUP director, explained that the number of workers running out of 6 months’ benefits during the current recession is greater nationally than it was during the recession of the early 1990s. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, those exhausting their regular 26 weeks of state unemployment compensation doubled between August 2000 and August 2002.

While the numbers of the unemployed are not as high in the current recession as in the 1991 recession, the numbers and percentage of workers who lost jobs in the two recessions are comparable – 2.3 million in 2001-02 and 2.6 million in 1990-91.

In the early 1990s, benefits were extended to 59 weeks and the program lasted 30 months. TEUC will last only 9 months without Congressional action. Dodd called for support for the Kennedy Bill in the Senate and HR-5491 in the House. “Along with helping families facing loss of all income,” Dodd said, “TEUC would act as an economic stimulus. Unemployment benefits will go quickly into the economy.”

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