The White House on Wednesday urged lawmakers to extend unemployment benefits for millions of unemployed Americans, its latest pitch to ratchet up pressure for Congress to pass legislation to renew the benefits.
"This New Year's Day, there is likely less joy and more fear and distress in the homes of 1.3 million Americans who this week have seen their unemployment insurance suddenly cut off -- a vital lifeline that these Americans depend on as they fight to find a job," Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, said in a statement.
"There would be no better New Year's resolution for Congress to make today than to commit to making the first new legislation for the new year the restoration of emergency unemployment insurance for those who have this week just been cut off," said Sperling.
Approximately 1.3 million workers currently receiving extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits lost them as the program expired on Dec. 28. About 3.6 million additional 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.
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 federal government- funded extra assistance UI program has been repeatedly extended in past years.
"Failing to extend emergency unemployment insurance through 2014 will negatively impact 14 million Americans -- the 4.9 million workers who will see unemployment insurance cut off and the approximately 9 million additional family members they are supporting. But if Congress does the right thing and acts to extend emergency unemployment benefits through 2014, it is estimated to lead to 200,000 jobs and a fifth of a point of additional economic growth," he added.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that the upper chamber is scheduled to vote Monday on a three-month extension of federal government-funded jobless benefits.
President Barack Obama strongly supports Majority Leader Harry Reid's commitment to bring the bipartisan bill for a vote the very first day the Senate returns on Jan. 6, Sperling said.