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 Home > News & Policies > December 2002

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 14, 2002

President Calls on Congress to Extend Unemployment Benefits
Radio Address by the President to the Nation

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week I introduced new members of my economic team. For the Secretary of the Treasury, I have submitted the name of John Snow, a respected business leader and economist who shares my commitment to faster growth and more new jobs for American workers. I have nominated Bill Donaldson to serve as Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to vigorously enforce the laws against corporate corruption. And here at the White House, Steve Friedman will be the Director of the National Economic Council, giving me daily advice on our economy.

These leaders will assume their duties at an important moment for our economy. There are many good signs. Inflation is firmly under control, which means food, clothing, and other necessities are more affordable. Mortgage interest rates remain at historic lows, helping more Americans become homeowners. And growth has returned to the American economy.

Yet we also face specific challenges that could slow the recovery and limit future growth. Many Americans have very little money left over after taxes. Some struggle under a weight of debt that makes it difficult to save for retirement. Investor confidence needs to be strengthened in practical ways. And the nation's rate of unemployment is now 6 percent, and significantly higher in some parts of America. We will not rest until every person in America who wants to work can find a job.

The new Congress that convenes next month will have a responsibility to address these challenges, and I will be making specific proposals to increase the momentum of economic recovery through a growth and jobs package.

The last Congress also left behind some unfinished business. The House and Senate passed different bills extending unemployment benefits. However, no final bill was sent to me extending unemployment benefits for about 750,000 Americans whose benefits will expire on December 28th. These Americans rely on their unemployment benefits to pay for the mortgage or rent, food, and other critical bills. They need our assistance in these difficult times, and we cannot let them down.

I have shared these concerns with leaders of the House and the Senate and they understand the need for early action. When our legislators return to the Capitol, I ask them to make the extension of unemployment benefits a first order of business. And the benefits they approve should be retroactive, so that people who lose their benefits this month will be paid in full. I've also directed the Department of Labor to work with the states to minimize any delay in helping these Americans once Congress has acted and extended these benefits.

I look forward to working with members of both parties in the new Congress on our economic challenges. We must help our fellow citizens who have lost their jobs. And we must create an environment in which businesses, especially small businesses, can grow and generate the new jobs our country needs.

Thank you for listening.