HARRISBURG, July 20, 2009 – State Senator Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) today criticized Senate Republicans for blocking bipartisan legislation that would use federal money to extend unemployment benefits for jobless workers.

He said 1,330 workers from Allegheny County exhausted their unemployment benefits Saturday. Statewide, the legislation would impact 17,880 jobless workers.

“Sitting on this legislation is unconscionable in view of how dire the situation is for so many working families in Pennsylvania,” Fontana said following a Capitol news conference today. “This is especially egregious since there is ample federal stimulus money available to extend this economic lifeline for these workers.”

While the legislation passed the House of Representatives by a lopsided 1971 to 1 margin, the Senate Republicans have bottled up this bill in the Senate Committee on Labor and Industry for over a week. That inaction has prevented Pennsylvania from qualifying for $145 million in federal aid that would pay for extended benefits for the affected workers. The measure would extend unemployment benefits by seven weeks to a total of 79 weeks of jobless workers.

Fontana said jobless workers are not at fault, and called them “victims of a national recession.” The number of Pennsylvanians seeking work has nearly doubled over the past year.

“Apart from the fact that we have available federal dollars to pay for this extension, enacting this law is the decent thing to do,” Fontana said. “It gives these workers more time to find work, keeps money in their pockets, keeps spending money in our local economy and ultimately helps preserve homes and jobs in our communities.”