May 5, 2003
Sen. Hillary Clinton called for a six-month extension of unemployment benefits yesterday, citing the city's fiscal crisis, weak economy and lack of new jobs.
In discussing the new bill, Clinton, a Democrat, took several jabs at President George W. Bush, saying the administration is not doing the right thing to help New York and the economy.
"For the first time in 30 years, wages are stagnant and the average hours worked [per week] dropped to 34," Clinton said. "I just think this administration is on exactly the wrong track to help the economy, they did a 180-degree turn away from what worked in the '90s and we're the ones paying the price."
She pointed to figures released Friday that showed the unemployment rate climbed to 6 percent nationally and is about 9.2 in New York City.
"We're in a doubly dangerous time because not only are jobs drying up and not being created, but the safety net programs that people should be able to fall back on are also being shredded," Clinton said during a news conference at her Manhattan office.
In a speech that touched on the new unemployment rate, Bush said it should send a signal to Congress that it needs to support a "bold, economic recovery package so people can find work."
She was joined by a handful of out-of-work New Yorkers and City Councilman Bill de Blasio (D-Brooklyn) to announce a bill she is co-sponsoring to extend unemployment benefits by six months, including 13 weeks of benefits for 1.1 million Americans and 100,000 New Yorkers whose benefits already have expired.
On May 31, Clinton said, more than 2.1 million Americans, including 180,000 New Yorkers, will lose unemployment benefits.
In New York, de Blasio said, the fiscal crunch already has left more people homeless, slashed social services programs and could create more problems if it leads to additional layoffs.
"In Brooklyn alone, and this figure is staggering to me, 10.1 percent unemployment rate ... " de Blasio said. "When you add all those pieces together, you realize that the basic social fabric of New York City is threatened."
In addition to expanding unemployment benefits to 26 weeks, the new bill would expand coverage for low-wage and part-time workers.
Tyrone Larkins, 55, of Harlem, said that after he lost his job as a counselor nine months ago, he joined the New York Unemployment Project, a job support organization. Since then, he said he's been forced to "beg, borrow and deal" to make ends meet but he's now facing eviction since he's unable to find a job.
"I've been working all my life and I don't want to lose my house," Larkins said.
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