Huffpost Politics

Obama: 'If Congress Refuses To Act' On Unemployment Benefits, 'It Will Actually Harm Our Economy'

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed before they expire at the end of the year.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama says more than one million Americans will lose benefits if lawmakers don't act. He says unemployment insurance is one of the most effective ways to boost the economy and that providing benefits does not stop people from trying to find work.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he is willing to consider extending the jobless benefits.

Watch the president's address above, or read the full text below (via The White House):

Hi, everybody. The holiday season is a time for remembering the bonds we share, and our obligations to one another as human beings.

But right now, more than one million of our fellow Americans are poised to lose a vital economic lifeline just a few days after Christmas if Congress doesn’t do something about it.

Our top priority as a country should be restoring opportunity and broad-based economic growth for all Americans. And yesterday, we learned that our businesses created about 200,000 jobs in the month of November. That’s more than 8 million new jobs in the last 45 months. And the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in five years.

But we need to do everything we can to help businesses create more good jobs that pay good wages even faster. Because the hole that we’re still digging out of means that there are still millions of Americans looking for work – often because they’ve been laid off through no fault of their own.

We also have to look out for the Americans working hard to get those jobs. That’s why, as a country, we offer temporary unemployment insurance – so that job-seekers don’t fall into poverty, and so that when they get that job, they bounce back more quickly.

For many families, it can be the difference between hardship and catastrophe. It makes a difference for a mother who suddenly doesn’t know if she’ll be able to put food on the table for her kids. It makes a difference for a father who lost his job and is looking for a new one. Last year alone, it lifted 2.5 million people out of poverty, and cushioned the blow for many more.

But here’s the thing: if Members of Congress don’t act before they leave on their vacations, 1.3 million Americans will lose this lifeline. These are people we know. They’re our friends and neighbors; they sit next to us in church and volunteer in our communities; their kids play with our kids. And they include 20,000 veterans who’ve served this country with honor.

If Congress refuses to act, it won’t just hurt families already struggling – it will actually harm our economy. Unemployment insurance is one of the most effective ways there is to boost our economy. When people have money to spend on basic necessities, that means more customers for our businesses and, ultimately, more jobs. And the evidence shows that unemployment insurance doesn’t stop people from trying hard to find work.

Just this week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted that allowing benefits to expire will be a drag on our economic growth next year. A report by the Department of Labor and my Council of Economic Advisors estimated that it could cost businesses 240,000 jobs. And without the ability to feed their families or pay the bills, many people currently looking for work could stop looking for good.

So extending unemployment insurance isn’t just the right thing to do for our families – it’s the smart thing to do for our economy. And it shouldn’t be a partisan issue. For decades, Congress has voted to offer relief to job-seekers – including when the unemployment rate was lower than it is today.

But now that economic lifeline is in jeopardy. All because Republicans in this Congress – which is on track to be the most unproductive in history – have so far refused to extend it.

So this holiday season, let’s give our fellow Americans who are desperately looking for work the help they need to keep on looking. Let’s make it easier for businesses to attract more customers, and our economy to grow. And together, let’s keep doing everything we can to make this country a place where anyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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