HONOLULU (AP) -- President Barack Obama has told two senators proposing to extend expiring federal unemployment benefits that he plans to push Congress to do it quickly.
More than 1 million Americans will lose benefits Saturday because Congress didn't extend them. Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada and Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island have proposed extending the benefits for three months.
Obama called the two senators separately on Friday. The White House says Obama offered his support for their proposal and called it an urgent economic priority. Obama says the abrupt cut-off in cash assistance during the holidays will hurt economic growth and jobs.
Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling says the Senate will hold a vote on the proposal as soon as Congress returns next month.
ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- It's a rough day for more than a million people who are not only out of a job but out of a paycheck from the federal goverment after Congress fails to extend a five-year emergency program. Starting tomorrow, those who have been unemployed for longer than six months will have their benefits cut off.
20-year-old Lemark Moore sorts through bills he can't afford.
"I can't afford to pay my car payment, or even get an apartment right now," said Moore.
Moore was laid off from Chrysler a year ago and started collecting $367 a week in unemployment benefits.
"It's just enough to get the things I need at the end of the month and to help my sister out because I just moved in with her because of hard times right now as well," Moore said.
And it's about to get tougher for Moore. He's one of 1.3 million Americans set to lose their jobless benefits since the government did not extend the program under its budget. That means the unemployed will only be able to get a maximum of six and a half months of benefits in a year. That's much less than the more than two years allowed under the previous extension.
"To learn that that's getting cut off is just a total devastation," Moore said.
Moore says he's not sure what he'll do.
"Been a hard worker for years, like I was working at Chrysler for two years and to learn that this has happened how am I going to get by?," Moore said. "This is just very bad, this is terrible."
Thankfully, Moore does have a job interview coming up next week, so he's hoping that will come through. Extending long-term unemployment benefits through 2014 would've cost $19 billion.
The Senate is working on a bill that would extend benefits for at least three months. But that bill won't come up until lawmakers return to work after the new year.