President Obama: Unemployment Benefits’ Expiration “Just Plain Cruel”

Source: Jake Miller / CBS News

President Obama scolded congressional Republicans on Saturday for abandoning job-seeking Americans by allowing unemployment insurance to expire on Dec. 28, saying the restoration of those benefits should be lawmakers’ “first order of business” when they return from their holiday break.

“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,” he said in his weekly address. “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.

“And denying families that security is just plain cruel,” he added. “We’re a better country than that.  We don’t abandon our fellow Americans when times get tough – we keep the faith with them until they start that new job.”

The federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program was expanded in 2008 to provide extra income to the long-term unemployed who exhausted their 26 weeks of state benefits. For much of the recession, the government not only offered extended benefits beyond those 26 weeks but also introduced the EUC program to offer up to 99 weeks of combined state and federal assistance in many states.

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