Saperstein: "It is crucial that ... the full force of the Congress [is] behind helping those struggling with the recession maintain financial stability."
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WASHINGTON, D.C., June 7, 2010 -- Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today sent a letter to all Senators urging that the Senate version of the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act (HR 4213) include provisions that are vital to meeting the needs of Americans still struggling with the recession. The full text of the letter follows:
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis which includes over 1800 Reform rabbis, I write to you in the spirit of the words of Proverbs 31:9, which entreat us to "speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and needy." To that end, we urge you to include in the Senate version of the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act (H.R. 4213) provisions that are vital to meeting the needs of Americans still struggling with the recession, including more than 15 million Americans who are currently unemployed - 7 million of whom have been out of work for more than 6 months. Chief among the goals of any "Jobs Bill" must be to return Americans to work and support them as they continue to look for work. We urge you to include and improve on several of the provisions passed or included in earlier versions by the House in the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act that would strengthen crucial financial safety nets for low-income families, such as:
- An extension of unemployment benefits through the end of 2010. The original draft of HR 4213 included an extension through the end of the year, but was scaled back to be extended only through November.
- An extension through the end of the year on COBRA health insurance subsidy benefits for those who have lost their jobs. This provision was also included in the original draft of HR 4213, but was entirely removed prior to the final vote.
- $1 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund to build, preserve and rehabilitate housing for extremely low-income households. This creates affordable housing where there is currently a huge deficit of units affordable to low-income households, and also helps put people back to work: the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that each $1 billion provided to NHTF would create 15,000 construction jobs.
- An extension of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) jobs and emergency fund through FY 2011. This fund helps states cope with the rising number of low-income Americans reliant on the TANF program.
The time to cut social safety net programs is not when more low-income Americans than ever are struggling. It is crucial that the Senate expand upon the scaled-back provisions in the House version of the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, and put the full force of the Congress behind helping those struggling with the recession maintain financial stability.
Rabbi David Saperstein