States Await Obama Jobs Plan

 

State officials are eagerly awaiting a federal job-creating initiative to be outlined by President Obama today (Dec. 8). They hope it will include extended unemployment benefits, infrastructure money and other aid for their battered states.

Advocates have been dialing up the pressure ahead of the president's speech at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

State labor officials pushed Congress on Monday (Dec. 7) to extend jobless benefits for unemployed residents, The New York Times reported . Extended benefits included in the federal stimulus program expire this month, and without congressional action, "an estimated one million workers will see benefits end in January." State officials also are pushing Congress to renew health insurance subsidies for the long-term unemployed.

State transportation officials hope the new federal plan includes money for as many as 9,500 "ready to go" infrastructure projects they say will put people back to work quickly and help lower the nation's 10-percent unemployment rate. Many state officials, including Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), have said that the original stimulus plan did not steer enough money toward transportation projects.

A senior Obama administration official told The Associated Press over the weekend that the president " will endorse sending the biggest chunk of fresh money to cash-strapped state and local governments to stem their layoffs." But The Washington Post cautioned that Obama's plan "is not expected to detail programs or precise spending figures."

The proposal could be as important to congressional Democrats as it is for the states, The Washington Post 's Dan Balz noted in an analysis . "For all the attention the White House and Congress have given to health care and Afghanistan this fall, no problem poses a greater political threat to the Democrats in 2010 than joblessness and slow economic growth," according to Balz.

 
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