WASHINGTON — President Obama will meet on Tuesday in Washington with some long-term unemployed Americans, as the White House ramps up pressure on Congress to extend unemployment insurance benefits that expired for 1.3 million Americans last week.
The White House's announcement of Tuesday's event where Obama will press for the extension of the benefits came Friday as Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee released a report saying the expiration of federal unemployment insurance has already taken more than $400 million out of the economy.
The White House Council of Economic Advisers says failing to extend benefits would put a dent in job-seekers' incomes and would have a cascading effect on the U.S. economy that would cost 240,000 jobs in 2014.
The Senate is expected to consider a bill next week sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I. and Dean Heller, R-Nev., to extend emergency unemployment insurance for three months.
Labor Secretary Tom Perez told reporters on Friday that many of the unemployed who lost their benefits have gone from a "position of hardship" to one that is a "catastrophe."
"They have been looking day in and day out for work," Perez said. "They are trying to feed their families. They are trying to stave off foreclosure. They are making judgments between food and medicine —judgments that no person in America or anywhere should have to make."
Republicans are hesitant to extend the program without offsetting spending cuts or changes to the program, which costs about $25 billion annually. The Heller-Reed bill does not include cost offsets.
Some Republicans, most notably Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, have questioned whether the extended unemployment insurance has dissuaded Americans from rejoining the workforce.
"When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you're causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy," Paul argued on Fox News Sunday last month.
Perez dismissed the Paul argument.
"The evidence belies that," Perez said. "Certainly the conversations I have across the board with people looking for work is they want nothing more than to get a job."