The White House is ratcheting up the pressure on Congress to restore emergency long-term unemployment benefits when they return to Washington next week.
President Obama will be joined by people who have lost those benefits, which expired at the end of last year, when he delivers remarks on the issue at the White House on Tuesday. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez told reporters on Friday that the benefits are a critical lifeline for people still looking for work.
He said it would be ”unprecedented,” given the rate of long-term unemployment, for Congress to fail to extend the benefits.
Already, 1.3 million people have lost benefits after Congress let them expire on Dec. 28. The federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program was expanded in 2008 to provide extra income to the long-term unemployed who exhausted their 26 weeks of state benefits. For much of the recession, the government not only offered extended benefits beyond those 26 weeks, but also introduced the EUC program to offer up to 99 weeks of combined state and federal assistance in many states. If Congress doesn’t restore the program, an additional 1.9 million Americans will lose benefits in the first six months of 2014.
Extending the program for another year would cost about $25 billion, and Democrats say it should be renewed with or without a plan to pay for it.