With unemployment benefits are set to expire today for about two million out-of-work Americans, activists in Springfield and around the state are organizing last-ditch rallies to persuade legislators to extend benefits.
Congress has until midnight tonight to vote to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed, a move that would cost as much as $65 million. Lawmakers have already extended the time limit on benefits—typically 26 weeks—several times, in the face of the ongoing economic crisis. The national unemployment rate is currently around 9 percent; in Massachusetts, it’s 8.1 percent.
At 3 o’clock this afternoon, a rally will be held at U.S. Rep. Richie Neal’s Springfield office, at 300 State St., where activists will call for an extension of benefits.
“With Massachusetts still down some 300,000 jobs and our state economy still contracting, we cannot afford another 30,000 households losing income by [the] end of year, nor losing another $24 million [in] federal stimulus funds which our businesses already paid for and we already worked for. We need Congressional action to extend unemployment benefits now and we need our congresspeople to commit to whatever it takes,” Grace Ross, an organizer of the rally effort, said in a press release. (Ross, the Green Party’s 2006 gubernatorial candidate, attempted to challenge Gov. Deval Patrick for the Democratic nomination this year but failed to collect enough signatures to get on the primary ballot.)
Rallies will also be held this afternoon in Worcester, New Bedford, Framingham and Roxbury.