President Barack Obama is asking congressional Republicans to restore unemployment insurance for more than one million Americans just as soon as they return from their holiday break.
“Just a few days after Christmas, more than one million Americans lost a vital economic lifeline–the temporary insurance that helps folks make ends meet while they look for a job,” Obama said Saturday morning (Jan. 4) in his weekly address. “And for many of their constituents who are unemployed through no fault of their own, that decision will leave them with no income at all.”
“And denying families that security is just plain cruel,” the President added. “We’re a better country than that. We don’t abandon our fellow Americans when times get tough–we keep the faith with them until they start that new job.”
Congress expanded the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program in 2008 when Republican George W. Bush was still in the White House. It was designed to provide additional income for those people who remain unemployed after their 26 weeks of state benefits has run out.
Some 1.3 million Americans stopped receiving benefit checks on Dec. 28. And if lawmakers fail to restore the EUC program, about two million more people will lose benefits in the first six months of 2014, according to a report by CBS News.
In his address, Obama reiterated that not only individual families but the economy as a whole will suffer unless benefits are restored.
“If folks can’t pay their bills or buy the basics, like food and clothes, local businesses take a hit and hire fewer workers,” he said. “That’s why the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that, unless Congress restores this insurance, we’ll feel a drag on our economic growth this year.”
Last month, the CBO issued the results of a study finding that extending unemployment benefits would create an additional 200,000 jobs and raise GDP growth by 0.2 percent in 2014.
On Tuesday, the President plans to deliver a speech from the White House flanked by jobless Americans whose benefits recently expired. And perhaps as early as Monday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) intends to hold a procedural vote on a bill to reinstate benefits, CBS reports. “If they pass it, I will sign it,” Obama said.
“For decades, Republicans and Democrats put partisanship aside to offer some security for job-seekers, even when the unemployment rate was lower than it is today,” he said. “Instead of punishing families who can least afford it, Republicans should make it their New Year’s resolution to do the right thing and restore this vital economic security for their constituents right now.”
Obama, who is on vacation in Hawaii, and his advisers have been pressing Congress to extend the federal aid to help out-of-work Americans who are searching for jobs and avoid damage to the economy.
“The president will talk about the toll that allowing unemployment benefits to expire has had on 1.3 million Americans, and he’ll warn of the negative consequences for the broader American economy if Congress fails to act quickly on this urgent priority,” the White House said in a statement.