Obama pushes for jobless benefits extension

Washington, Jan 5: US President Barack Obama Saturday urged Congress to extend unemployment benefits for millions of unemployed Americans, saying inaction of Congress will lead to self-inflicted wound for the economy, Xinhua reported.

“Just a few days after Christmas, more than one million of our fellow Americans lost a vital economic lifeline — the temporary insurance that helps folks make ends meet while they look for a job. Republicans in Congress went home for the holidays and let that lifeline expire,” Obama was quoted as saying in his weekly address.

Approximately 1.3 million workers currently receiving extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits lost them as the programme expired Dec 28. About 3.6 million more people will lose access to UI benefits beyond 26 weeks by the end of 2014 if Congress fails to act, the White House figures showed.

“We don’t abandon our fellow Americans when times get tough — we keep the faith with them until they start that new job. What’s more, it actually slows down the economy for all of us,” Obama said.

“If folks can’t pay their bills or buy the basics, like food and clothes, local businesses take a hit and hire fewer workers. That’s why the independent Congressional Budget Office says that unless Congress restores this insurance, we’ll feel a drag on our economic growth this year,” he added.

“And after our businesses created more than two million new jobs last year, that’s a self-inflicted wound we don’t need,” Obama said.

Unemployed Americans can get 26 weeks of state-paid unemployment benefits, and the length of the benefits has been extended in 2008 after the onset of the financial crisis with the financial help of the federal government. The government-funded extra assistance UI programme has been repeatedly extended in past years, but some Republicans opposed renewing the temporary programme.

Obama is scheduled to hold an event at the White House Tuesday and call on Congress to renew long-term unemployment benefits for millions of Americans when he returns to Washington from his vacation in Hawaii, Labour Secretary Thomas Perez said Friday.

IANS