Rep. Jack Quinn vowed Saturday to throw a financial lifeline to as many as 17,000 Buffalo Niagara residents whose unemployment benefits are scheduled to end Dec. 28.
At the top of Quinn's legislative list when the new Congress begins Jan. 7, he said, will be the introduction of a bill that would extend jobless benefits by 13 weeks and include a retroactive clause to Dec. 28.
"The problem with Washington, D.C., is we get caught up in paperwork and this is a real, live people situation. I'm going to seek retroactive benefits to replace money lost from Dec. 28 to whenever the extension is approved," Quinn said. "That sends a message of fairness."
Republican House leaders on Friday refused to consider the extension, but Quinn said he is confident the new Congress will take action.
About 830,000 people nationwide, including 177,000 in New York State, will lose their benefits Dec. 28. In Erie and Niagara counties, officials estimate about 17,000 unemployed workers will be without unemployment checks on that date.
The national figure for jobless individuals losing benefits will grow rapidly after Dec. 28, according to Quinn. "Every day there will be another 95,000 people."
Quinn's promise to push for the extension was good news for several unemployed Western New Yorkers who attended his news conference at the Buffalo Employment and Training Center on Goodell Street.
"I lose my benefits at the end of January, and that makes it hard to stay in Buffalo," said Patrick Connors, a 43-year-old Buffalo carpenter who has not swung his hammer on a job since the end of July.
Without benefits, Connors, married and the father of three, said he will have to move out of the area. "If there's no work or benefits, it's going to be tough and I'll have to move."
Ron Sansone, 44, of Amherst, an unemployed electronics engineer and circuits designer, said he, too, wants to avoid relocating.
"I'm a Buffalo native, and I really don't want to leave, but it's tough even getting job interviews. It takes two and three months to get in for an interview with companies here," said Sansone, who is married and the father of two children.
Like so many others, his weekly unemployment check of $405 is scheduled to stop at the end of next month.
Part of what has kept his hopes up, he said, is his membership in "POD" at the employment and training center. "It stands for professional opportunity developers. It's professionals intensely networking here for jobs."
Virgilia Benker Beck, the center's career resource manager, said that it is of the highest priority to find work for people like Sansone.
"Who will we have to run our companies if all the professionals are leaving? There will be no companies or jobs for our children if they leave," Benker Beck said in commending Quinn for seeking the unemployment benefits extension.