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June 24, 2014

Reverent Willie E. Briscoe
Rev. Willie E. Briscoe (shown speaking) said the unemployment rate for
black men in some Milwaukee neighborhoods is around 60 percent.

Long-Term Unemployed Gets a Witness on Capitol Hill, but No Hearing

by Burney Simpson
Staff Writer
The NorthStar News & Analysis

Progressive activists and Democratic members of the U.S. House have joined on Capitol Hill to call attention to extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, but chances of passing legislation to address the issue appear slim.

The long-term unemployed, those that have been without work for more than six months, make up about one-third of the nation’s 9.8 million jobless, according to Witness Wednesday, a coalition of four activist groups in Washington, D.C. The unemployment rate for blacks has been about twice that of whites since the 1960s, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The coalition allied with Democratic Representatives Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Donna Edwards of Maryland, Sander Levin of Michigan, and others, to hold press conferences every Wednesday just steps from the U.S. Capitol to publicize the issue. The Witness Wednesday events began on June 11 and will continue through July 30, after taking a break on July 2 for the Independence Day holiday (also see today's video).

The unemployment rate for black men in some parts of Milwaukee is around 60 percent
Long-term unemployment especially impacts African-American communities, said Rev. Willie E. Briscoe, president of Milwaukee Innercity Congregation Allied for Hope (MICAH). Briscoe says that the unemployment rate for black men in parts of Milwaukee is around 60 percent.

“Wisconsin had industrial jobs, with breweries, auto manufacturing and other employers,” Briscoe told The NorthStar News. “But the jobs left and there was no civic plan to replace them.”

A federal program that extended unemployment insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed ended in December 2013. The U.S. Senate passed a proposal in April that would extend the benefits for six months. That proposal was sent to the U.S. House, but Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, hasn’t scheduled a hearing on the legislation.

Witness Wednesday is organized by the Center for Effective Government, National Employment Law Project, Coalition of Human Needs, and the National Women’s Law Center.

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