Recently, I joined over 90 of my colleagues in sending a letter to the Budget Conference urging them to include a one-year extension of the current Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program in any agreement on the federal budget. Unfortunately, the budget deal reached by House and Senate negotiators last week did not include any extension of the program. I voted for this budget because I believed it was better than allowing the government to shut down, but I will continue working with my colleagues to get an extension passed.

The EUC program is scheduled to immediately stop at the end of 2013. This means that without swift Congressional action, 1.3 million jobless workers will have their benefits cut off on December 28th, and nearly another 1.9 million will lose their unemployment benefits over the first half of next year. This would not only be a devastating blow for millions of Americans who are already struggling, but it would also hurt our economy. Recent estimates indicate that the expiration of the EUC program would cost our economy 310,000 jobs and drain roughly four-tenths of a percentage point from first-quarter economic growth.

The letter reads, in part, "Even with the progress our economy has seen since the depths of the recession, there are still 1.3 million fewer jobs today than when the recession started six years ago. Additionally, approximately 4 million Americans are considered long-term unemployed, and have been looking for work for more than six months. Now is certainly not the time to further decimate vital federal assistance to workers who have lost their job through no fault of their own and who must actively seek work in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits."

As we continue to recover from the worst economic recession in a lifetime, it is essential that we maintain the important safety nets that have helped out-of-work Americans and their families keep their heads above water. While I am disappointed that the budget deal did not include an extension of unemployment insurance, I will continue urging my colleagues to make extending this program a priority.