WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will push for an extension of emergency unemployment insurance benefits through the end of 2014, the White House said on Friday, saying the help is still warranted given stubbornly high unemployment.
“While the labor market has been improving, it is not, clearly, at full strength,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at a briefing.
“These benefits are crucial for maintaining incomes of the unemployed and their families, and it has been shown to reduce poverty and increase the changes of returning the unemployed worker to a good job,” he said.
More than 2 million unemployed people stands to lose jobless benefits by the end of the year if Congress doesn’t reauthorize the program, the National Employment Law Project said last week.
Federal unemployment insurance becomes payable after out-of-work individuals exhaust state unemployment aid, which runs out in many states after 26 weeks. The emergency aid was most recently reauthorized in January for a year under the federal budget deal struck at the time.
The benefits “remain a critical lifeline for substantial numbers of long-term unemployed workers who are struggling and looking for work for six months,” the NELP said in a report.
Carney said the White House believes Congress will support the request because unemployment compensation has in the past been extended when the unemployment rate is near current levels. The jobless rate was 7.3 percent in October.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said the request would be a clear acknowledgement that the president’s economic policies, including his Obamacare healthcare plan, are not working.
“If and when they offer details, we’ll take a look,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said.
Editing by Philip Barbara