Statement Urging Senate Passage of Legislation to Extend Unemployment and TANF Benefits and Enhanced Federal Medicaid Funding

MECEP strongly urges Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to demand that before it adjourns for the July 4th break, the Senate pass comprehensive legislation to extend federal unemployment and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits and enhanced Federal Medicaid funding. 

Thousands of Maine workers have already lost their unemployment and health care benefits, and extension of the enhanced federal Medicaid assistance is essential to prevent further budget cuts in state fiscal year 2011, starting tomorrow (July 1st).  

More than 2 million people nationwide will lose unemployment benefits if Congress fails to act before leaving for the July 4 recess.  Between now and the end of the year, over 30,000 unemployed workers in Maine will lose their unemployment benefits.  This will devastate the financial security of families statewide.  It will also undermine Maine’s fragile recovery as these benefits provide funds families would spend right now, boosting their local economies and helping local businesses to avoid layoffs.

If the Senate fails to extend enhanced Federal Medicaid assistance, state budget-cutting actions nationwide could cost the economy 900,000 jobs in the public and private sectors next year.  

Yesterday, Maine Finance Commissioner Ryan Lowe told the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee that unless the Senate acts on enhanced Federal Medicaid assistance, Maine will face a $100 million budget gap.  This could force the State to make further spending cuts to critical health care services.  

The Political Economy Research Institute estimates that for every $1 million in diminished Federal Medicaid assistance, 22 public and private sector jobs will be lost.  The loss of $100 million could cost Maine up to 2,200 private and public sector jobs.  This, too, would further weaken Maine’s economy and hinder recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression.

We also ask Senators Snowe and Collins to advocate for inclusion of funding for the National Housing Trust Fund.  Investment in the Trust to build 10,000 affordable rental units will also create approximately 15,100 new construction jobs and 3,800 new jobs in ongoing operations nationwide- truly welcome as our economy struggles to recover jobs lost in the recession.

We are grateful for the support Senators Snowe and Collins have consistently shown for extending unemployment and TANF benefits and enhanced Federal Medicaid assistance.  As recently as March, both voted for legislation that contained these extensions. 

But today, thousands of unemployed Mainers, families struggling to meet their daily living expenses and health caregivers who face layoffs need our Senators to stand up and demand passage of this vitally important legislation before Congress adjourns for the July 4th holiday.

Failure to pass this legislation now is not an option. The economic security of thousands of Maine families hangs in the balance.  Maine’s fragile economic recovery is at risk.  We call on our Senators to demonstrate leadership to overcome partisan hurdles and pass this bill before Independence Day.