Democrats criticize Bredesen on stimulus - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Democrats criticize Bredesen on stimulus

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Democrats from Washington, Nashville, Memphis and Shelby County gathered at the federal building in Memphis Friday at a news conference held by U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen.

There, the group said they wanted to send a message to Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen: please don't reject the money coming to Tennessee in President Obama's stimulus package.

Bredesen has said publicly he's evaluating whether to accept a boost in unemployment insurance money that is part of the $787 billion dollar federal stimulus package.

Bredesen is concerned that under President Obama's plan, Tennessee would be required to maintain a raise in unemployment benefits even after the stimulus package runs out in two years.  But local Democrats say the unemployed in the state city and county need the money right now.

"If Tennessee doesn't have this money, it's going to be spent somewhere else," Cohen said. "It will be spent in America, because this is part of America's road to recovery.  But for Tennessee to surrender $143 million dollars for some of its neediest citizens, I think is wrong."

Others agreed.

"Can we deny unemployment benefits to this large population of Tennesseans who need it today, not tomorrow?" Memphis City Council Chairman Myron Lowery asked.

"We in the labor council here in Memphis find it almost unbelievable that the governor - of all the parts of the stimulus package - he would single out the unemployment compensation for the most vulnerable people: that's laid off workers here in the state of Tennessee," said Howard Richardson of the AFLCIO.

Also present was Shelby County Commissioner Diedre Malone.
 
"I sit here with these other elected officials and community leaders and ask Governor Bredesen to do the right thing," Malone said.
 
The group said they hoped Bredesen would hear their message and accept the unemployment compensation dollars in the stimulus package.  They also urged citizens to write to Governor Bredesen and express that same concern.

Friday, Cohen criticized Bredesen for being one of the only Democratic governors in the country to hesitate on whether to accept the federal dollars.

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