Hurting Americans Who Worked Hard, Played by the Rules

By Congressmen Matt Cartwright (PA-17) and Steven Horsford (NV-4)

Since December 28, 2.3 million Americans have lost their unemployment insurance, with the expiration of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program. Every week, on average, an additional 72,000 Americans are cut off — the equivalent of one person every eight seconds. This vital economic lifeline helps struggling Americans feed, clothe, and keep a roof over the heads of their families while they look for new employment.

Despite these facts, Congress has been unable to come to an agreement to restore this essential lifeline. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that extending the current EUC program until the end of 2014 could increase GDP by 0.3 percent and create upwards of 300,000 jobs.

Congress should simply extend unemployment insurance, and help those in need. There is hope with the Senate passing a bipartisan compromise last week. However, Speaker John Boehner has dismissed the idea of taking up this compromise in the House of Representatives. How can one person stand in the way of allowing a vote to help over 2 million Americans and the will of the American people?

These Americans lost their jobs — and now their last lifeline, unemployment insurance — through no fault of their own. They don’t deserve to lose their homes as well. Unfortunately, this is exactly what we are hearing from our constituents.

Therefore, we have introduced the Stop Foreclosures Due to Congressional Dysfunction Act (HR 4255), which requires Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to impose a six-month forbearance on mortgage payments for people who have lost their unemployment insurance and sent a letter with 74 of our colleagues to FHFA Director Mel Watt asking his administration to do the same. Borrowers must have been current on their payments and in good standing before losing their unemployment insurance in order to qualify for the program. Not only would this be helpful to struggling Americans, but it’s a policy that is beneficial to taxpayers.

While it’s true that the housing market is bouncing back nationally, that’s not true everywhere, and housing markets are extremely local by nature. While the national foreclosure rate is 1.97 percent, that is much lower than the averages in both Pennsylvania (2.35 percent) and Nevada (2.8 percent).

If Speaker Boehner won’t bring up a bill to extend unemployment insurance in the House of Representatives, the least he can do is help people at risk of losing their homes. Speaker Boehner should do the right thing and allow a vote to extend unemployment insurance. If he won’t do that, he should at least show some compassion for those struggling to keep a roof over their heads because of his unending obstructionism.

Congressman Matt Cartwright represents Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District, which includes Schuylkill County and portions of Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Northampton and Carbon Counties. Cartwright serves on the House Natural Resources and Oversight and Government Reform Committees.

Congressman Steven Horsford represents Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, which includes Clark, Esmeralda, Lincoln, Lyon, Mineral, Nye, White Pine Counties. Horsford serves on the House Financial Services Committee.