Schakowsky stumping for stimulus

Adam Sege

CHICAGO – Finding a parking space outside an unemployment office is tough these days, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th) learned Monday.

The congresswoman visited the Illinois Department of Employment Security, 2444 W. Lawrence Ave., Monday to voice her support for a national economic stimulus plan. It was yet another busy day at the employment office, and one of Schakowsky’s staff members discovered later that her car had been towed.

Schakowsky spent much of her visit talking with about 50 unemployed constituents waiting to receive government benefits. In a press conference afterwards, she said the stories she heard underscored the need for the stimulus package.

“I’m hearing a lot of fear,” said the congresswoman, whose district includes Evanston. “Just one story after another of hardworking people, right here in our community, who need some help at this time to be able to take care of their families.”

Illinois lost 36,000 jobs in December alone, Schakowsky said. According to the Department of Labor, nationwide unemployment hit 7.6 percent in January after the biggest one-month job loss since 1974.

Congress is bitterly divided on a proposed economic recovery plan costing more than $800 billion. Last week, the House approved the plan without a single Republican vote.

For Republican Rep. John Shimkus (R-19th), the bill included too much unnecessary spending, a spokesman said.

“Congressman Shimkus opposed the original House-passed version of the stimulus package due to the many pork-type projects and non-stimulus funds that were added to the package,” said Steve Tomaszewski, the Illinois congressman’s press secretary. “Buying cars for the government or computers for the government doesn’t necessarily equate to jobs immediately, and the premise of the package is to create jobs now.”

The Senate will vote on their version of the plan today. If the bill passes, the Senate and House will meet and decide on a common version, which will then go to each chamber for a final vote. President Obama has said he wants to sign the bill by the end of the week.

William Jamison, regional manager for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, echoed Schakowsky’s support for the bill at Monday’s press conference.

“Things are worse than we have seen them in a very long time,” Jamison said. “Now is the time when people need government the most, because the government is the fabric of what makes our country run.”

Jennifer Mierisch, 32, will also be watching the vote closely.

Cradling her seven-week-old daughter at Monday’s press conference, Mierisch told the press that on May 1 she will be laid off from her job at an educational tutoring company.

“Both my husband and I must work to afford our home and pay for health insurance for our growing family,” Mierisch said.

The stimulus package would be a “step in the right direction” for her and other unemployed Americans, Mierisch said.

“We’re educated, we’re willing to work hard,” she said. “We just need for the jobs to be there.”

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