Top economic advisor of US President Barack Obama Friday urged Congress to extend unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans.
"As the President has repeatedly made clear, it defies economic sense, precedent and our values to allow 1.3 million Americans fighting to find jobs to see their unemployment insurance abruptly cut off -- especially in the middle of the holiday season," Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling said in a statement.
"Never before have we abruptly cut off emergency unemployment insurance when we faced this level of long-term unemployment and it would be a blow to these families and our economy," he added.
As assistant to the president for economic policy, Sperling said that two senators have put forward bipartisan legislation to extend emergency unemployment insurance for three months, and that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring it to a vote as soon as lawmakers return from the holiday break.
Obama strongly encourages both the Democratic and Republican Congressional leadership and their members to support this bipartisan solution and to pass the bill, Sperling said.
Unemployed Americans can get up to 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 program, which provides extended unemployment benefits after state benefits expire, has been repeatedly renewed in past years.
Without congressional action, the federal program will expire this weekend and about 1.3 million Americans would see their extended benefits be cut off and about 3.6 million more will lose access to unemployment benefits beyond 26 weeks by the end of 2014, according to the White House.
Obama has called for an extension of the unemployment benefits many times, but it is not included in the bipartisan budget deal lawmakers struck before Christmas.