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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

President Obama Calls on Republicans to End Obstruction of Unemployment Benefits, Urges Congress to Pass Critical Aid for Millions of Americans

WASHINGTON – Today, President Obama called on Congress to extend critical unemployment insurance to millions of Americans looking for a job.  The U.S. Senate on Tuesday will vote on extending unemployment benefits for Americans still struggling to find work and overcome the lingering effects of the recession.  In the three previous efforts, Senate Republicans have blocked the extension of emergency relief for the unemployed. Across the country, this stonewalling has already blocked assistance to 2.5 million Americans, and hundreds of thousands more are impacted by each additional week of delay.

The President also highlighted that many Republicans have previously supported unemployment extensions under Republican administrations but refuse to offer relief to middle class families today.  Many of these Republicans want to extend hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while telling working families that we can’t afford to help them when they need it most.

At the White House, the President was joined by three Americans in need of the extension who shared their story: 

• Jim Chukalas, from Fredon Township, NJ, was laid off as a parts manager at a Honda dealership in 2008. He ran out of Tier III benefits and his Tier IV expired two weeks ago because Congress has failed to act.  Jim has persistently searched for work and fights to keep his spirits up for his family’s sake.

• Leslie Macko, from Charlottesville, VA, lost her job as an aesthetician in 2009.  She received, and exhausted, Virginia unemployment compensation benefits.  She has also exhausted her Tier I benefits and had 4.9 weeks of Tier II EUC for which she is eligible.  However, there has been a 6-week delay in the Tier II benefits and once she receives these benefits, she will not be eligible for additional unemployment insurance.  She has persistently searched for work, and continues to do so.  To pay her rent, utilities, food, and other expenses she has had to borrow money from her father on a monthly basis. 

• Denise Gibson from Queens, NY, was laid off as a maintenance supervisor in January and has been receiving unemployment insurance benefits since February.  She will receive the benefits only until August unless the extension is passed.  She is currently late on her rent and due back in housing court in early August.  She is interviewing for jobs and has plans to go to nursing school later this year.

The President’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning. Right now, all across this country, many Americans are sitting at the kitchen table, scanning the classifieds, updating their resumes, or sending out another job application, hoping that this time, they’ll hear back. They’re filled with a sense of uncertainty about where their next paycheck will come from. And I know the only thing that will free them from those worries – the only thing that will lift that sense of uncertainty – is the security of a new job.

To that end, we must continue our efforts to do everything in our power to spur growth and hiring.  And I hope the Senate acts this week on a package of tax cuts and expanded lending for small businesses, where most of America’s jobs are created.

But even as we work to jumpstart job-growth in the private sector, get businesses hiring, and dig ourselves out of this economic hole, we also have another responsibility – to offer emergency relief to Americans who’ve been laid off in this recession; to help them make ends meet – and support their families – while they’re looking for another job.

That’s why it’s so essential to pass the unemployment insurance extension that comes up for a vote tomorrow. We need to pass it for men like Jim Chukalas, who’s with me today, and who worked as a parts manager at a Honda dealership until about two years ago. Jim has posted resumes everywhere, and even gone door-to-door looking for jobs, but hasn’t gotten a single interview. He’s trying to be strong for his two young kids, but now that he’s exhausted his unemployment benefits, that’s getting harder to do.

We need to pass it for women like Leslie Macko, who lost her job at a fitness center last year, and has been looking for work ever since. Because she’s eligible for only a few more weeks of unemployment, she’s doing what she never thought she’d have to do. Not at this point, anyway. She’s turning to her father for financial support.

We need to pass it for Americans like Denise Gibson, who was laid off from a real estate agency earlier this year. Denise has been interviewing for jobs – but so far, nothing. Meanwhile, she’s fallen further and further behind on her rent. And with her unemployment benefits set to expire, she’s worried about what the future holds.

We need to pass it for all the Americans who haven’t been able to find work in an economy where there are five applicants for every opening; who need emergency relief to help them pay the rent, cover their utilities, and put food on the table while they look for another job. For a long time, there’s been a tradition – under both Democratic and Republican presidents – to offer relief to the unemployed. That was certainly the case under my predecessor, when Republican Senators voted several times to extend emergency unemployment benefits.

But right now, these benefits – benefits that are often a person’s sole source of income while they’re out of work – are in jeopardy. After years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, the same people who didn’t have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn’t offer relief to middle class Americans like Jim, or Leslie, or Denise, who really do need help.

Over the past few weeks, a majority of Senators have tried – not once, not twice, but three times – to extend emergency relief on a temporary basis. And each time, a partisan minority in the Senate has used parliamentary maneuvers to block a vote, denying millions of people who are out of work much-needed relief. Republican leaders in the Senate are advancing a misguided notion that emergency relief somehow discourages people from looking for a job.

Well, I think that reflects a lack of faith in the American people. The Americans I hear from in letters and meet in town halls – Americans like the ones here today – they aren’t looking for a handout. It’s not that they don’t want to work. They desperately do. They just can’t find a job. They’re honest, decent, hardworking folks who’ve fallen on hard times through no fault of their own; who have nowhere else to turn except unemployment benefits; who need emergency relief to help them weather this economic storm.

Tomorrow, we’ll have another chance offer them that relief; to do right by folks like Jim, Leslie, and Denise – and I hope we seize it. It’s time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics. It’s time to do what’s right – not for the next election, but for the middle class. It’s time to stop blocking emergency relief for Americans who are out of work and extend unemployment insurance. And that’s what I hope Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle do. Thank you.

Federal unemployment insurance provisions expired on June 4th.  The Republicans’ refusal to act has already blocked assistance to 2.5 million Americans, and hundreds of thousands more are impacted by each additional week of delay.

There also is a broader economic imperative to extending these benefits.  Independent assessments from the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Duke University/CFO Magazine survey have cited sales concerns and weak product demand as the largest concerns voiced by small businesses and corporate financial officers.  The Duke survey found that 36.4 percent of the CFOs believed that weak consumer demand was the top macro concern for their corporation – more than 18 percentage points higher than any other listed concern. 

Extending unemployment benefits expands local purchasing power.  Economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s put the economic multiplier of extending a dollar of unemployment benefits at 1.6, meaning that, for every dollar spent on unemployment compensation, $1.60 is added to our economy’s output.  Similarly, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office places the multiplier in a range between 0.8 and 2.1.