President Barack Obama on Saturday used his weekly presidential address to urge Congress to reinstate jobless benefits for more than a million Americans. The benefits lapsed on 28 December, after they were not included in bipartisan budget deal.
In his address, released while he concludes a vacation in Hawaii, the president said the unemployment insurance was a "vital economic lifeline" for many people. He stressed that failure to reinstate the benefits would cause the economy to slow for all Americans.
The president's remarks came a day after a Harvard economist, Professor Lawrence Katz, said the “fiscally irresponsible” decision to let the benefits lapse was costing the US economy up to a billion dollars a week.
A bipartisan proposal in the Senate would restore the benefits for three months. Obama says if lawmakers pass the measure, he will sign it.
Obama said: “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. And for many of their constituents who are unemployed through no fault of their own, that decision will leave them with no income at all. ”
He added that the lapse in unemployment benefits “actually slows down the economy for all of us”, and 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. And after our businesses created more than two million new jobs last year, that’s a self-inflicted wound we don’t need.”
Obama, who is due to return from vacation in Hawaii on Sunday, concluded his address with an appeal for bipartisan co-operation.
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