U.S. Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) is asking unemployed Rhode Islanders to share their stories so that his colleagues will understand the importance of passing an emergency extension to benefits set to expire for more than 2 million Americans on Dec. 31.
The Congressman has launched a new Tell Your Story feature on his website in hopes to convince the House and Senate to pass the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2011 (H.R. 3346) which would continue the program through the end of 2012.
More the 9,800 state residents currently depend on the aid and according to Director of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, Charles Fogarty, for every two part or full time jobs out there, there are seven applicants.
"These numbers are just staggering," Cicilline said. "I think the more we can put a human face to the problem, the easier it will be to convince my colleagues."
Cicilline is a co-sponsor of the bill, and stated that allowing the benefits to expire would be devastating for both families and the local economy.
"Households receiving these benefits tend to spend the money for basic needs very quickly," he said. "They use that money to feed their families, support small businesses and put gas in their cars. This is a very efficient way to make sure that action continues."
As the Congressman fights to extend the benefits, he urges all unemployed Rhode Islanders to take advantage of the new website feature and make sure that their voices are heard.
“I want to bring to Washington an understanding of what families are experiencing and what the loss of unemployment insurance would mean," he said. "Congress needs to understand the challenges facing unemployed individuals in communities across Rhode Island and our country.”
At the site, participants are encouraged to discuss how being out of work has affected them and their families asking, in part, if the benefits have helped them to pay their bills or stay in their homes.
"We'd like to make them understand that these are real people," Cicilline said. "And that the consequence of not doing this would be devastating to our economy and our families."