April 4, 2008

Washington, D.C. -

Following new estimates from the U.S. Department of Labor reporting the largest monthly job decline in five years, U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) stressed today the urgent need for Congress to take immediate and meaningful action to address the significant rise in unemployment.

"For the third straight month, U.S. employers have cut jobs including 80,000 in the month of March alone," Senator Snowe said. "The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits is at its highest level since after Hurricane Katrina. As our economy continues to struggle, now is the time for Congress to take immediate and definitive action to bolster job growth and protect America’s workforce."

Senator Snowe has repeatedly fought for the need to extend unemployment benefits during this economic slowdown. In late January, she successfully fought for the inclusion of unemployment benefits in the economic stimulus package that cleared the Finance Committee. During a phone conversation and at a hearing of the Finance Committee in February, Senator Snowe pressed Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on the importance of providing relief to the unemployed.

"The number of long-term unemployed in this country is twice as high as it was prior to the last recession in 2001, said Senator Snowe, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee. "Any effort to jumpstart the economy must address the key component of unemployment insurance."

Senator Snowe is developing a new initiative that would extend unemployment benefits during times of economic downturn – which would be extremely timely given fears that we are headed towards a recession as indicted by Fed Chairman Bernanke earlier this week. The policy would hinge on a "trigger" mechanism that would go into effect when unemployment reaches a certain level.

"As employment levels continues to decline and more Americans need support, we need a new policy in place that will enable us to act swiftly and deliberately during these challenging times," Senator Snowe said. "I am planning on unveiling a new initiative shortly that seeks to implement a long-term, common-sense policy to help address unemployment in America."