Federal Hall, the site of the nation’s first capital and where the Bill of Rights was argued, on Thursday again proved to be a place where people are fighting for their rights.
The "99’ers" are an expanding group of unemployed Americans that have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. They and other protesters took to the steps of Federal Hall today to demand immediate action for those who have come to the end of their unemployment benefits.
“We are told ‘it has been long enough’, ‘no more unemployment benefits’, ‘tough’. Millions are being forced into poverty by their own government, with thousands added to our ranks every week," said Kian Federick, the organizer of the rally.
The recent recently passed unemployment extension only covers those that are currently reaching the end of their benefits, not those that have already collected the last of their benefits.
“There are 2 to 4 million 99ers today and the 15 million plus unemployed tomorrow. 99ers are ballooning in numbers, further compounding the need for relief,” said Federick.
Protesters demanded that Congress pass a comprehensive jobs bill for all unemployed and expand unemployment benefits to include Tier 5 unemployment benefits extension for workers that have already reached the 99-week cutoff.
The Unemployed Workers Action Group sponsored the rally in hopes of garnering support for a revised legislation.
Most 99ers NBCNewYork spoke to have been without employment from as far back as 2008.
"Thank God my wife still has her job,” said Sam Talbot. The 32-year-old former chef has been visiting on line job sites every couple of hours for the last year.
Rally officials also claimed that many of their older members are beginning to consider suicide as a viable alternative.
“I’m not here to play politics. I’m here to survive,” said Connie Kaplan a former researcher for law firms and media outlets.
She however has not been able to find a job, even after going through multiple retraining programs at the New York State Labor Department.
John Moore, a representative from the U.S. Department of Labor told members that the labor department was, “there for them.” But after his brief statement he was confronted with a crush of 99’ers.
Moore handed out his personal business card to all and promised to answer their emails personally.
“We want to work. We can’t blame the Republicans, we blame the Obama Administration for not living up to the promise,” said Morris J. Hunt, a rally organizer.
But for those still moving towards the end of their benefits, it can be a massive source of despair.
“Don’t get unemployed. You’re like an alley cat,” said Betty S.
Yet, others like Joe Stanick chose to admire the statute of George Washington outside the hall exclaiming, “He worked through the difficult battles, but he endured and won the big one,” Stanick said pointing at the statue, "we just have to grit our teeth and make it through.”