The White House Thursday urged lawmakers to extend unemployment benefits for millions of unemployed Americans before Christmas, with national unemployment rate still hovering at an "unacceptably high" level.
Approximately 1.3 million workers currently receiving extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are set to lose them on Dec. 28, if the Congress allows the program to expire, the White House said in a report.
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.
About 3.6 million additional people will lose access to UI benefits beyond 26 weeks by the end of 2014, if the Congress allows the program to expire, warned the White House.
"Despite ten consecutive quarters of GDP growth and 7.8 million private sector jobs added since early 2010, the unemployment rate is unacceptably high at 7.3 percent, and far too many families are still struggling to regain the foothold they had prior to the crisis," said the report.
Failing to extend UI benefits would put a dent in job-seekers' incomes, reducing demand and costing 240,000 jobs in 2014, cautioned the White House.
Many Republicans opposed more government spending on entitlement programs.
House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that "the president's real focus ought to be creating a better environment for our economy and creating more jobs for the American people. That's where the focus is, not more government programs."