In the House of Representatives, an extension to unemployment benefits failed by just three votes. Three votes stood in between giving Americans their much-needed help for an additional 13 weeks, as every Democrat and 49 Republicans were joined in voting for the extension. (Since it was a non-controversial item, it required two-thirds majority.)
Sadly, for many Americans this assistance is vital in our current economic climate. This assistance can stand between a mother being able to put food on the table for dinner, or a father being able to put gas in the car to get to work. Sadly, for many minority communities, including Latinos, the economic crisis is hitting them harder then the nation at large.
This Congress has taken strong steps in improving life for all Americans, by providing the first minimum wage increase in a decade, the largest college aid expansion in six decades, and by spurring innovation across our economy with investments in national science, technology, math, and engineering teacher corps. In dealing with the current economic crisis, we have also helped families with Economic stimulus rebates and passing a comprehensive housing foreclosure crisis bill.
More specifically, in helping address the economic disparities facing Latino families, this Congress rejected President Bush's harmful cuts in the nation's budget. We kept or increased funding levels for programs vital to all Americans, especially Latinos. We funded the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps households reduce energy costs. We rejected cuts to housing assistance programs, like the community development block grant and the HOPE VI housing program. We are ensuring that students have access to higher education, with our increases to Perkins loans and supplemental educational opportunity grants.
Yet, as grim statics come out that show our nation's unemployment rates have surged to 5.5 percent, Republicans have again tried to block assistance to the families that urgently need it the most. And for the Latino community, this crisis is even bleaker, as the unemployment for Latinos rose to 6.5 percent in the first quarter of 2008.
Those that voted against this measure will not stand in the way of our assistance to the families in vital need of this help. Speaker Pelosi has announced that tomorrow, we will bring this bill back to the floor under regular order. There are 3.8 million Americans who need this help, and we cannot waste a moment in bringing them this relief.