Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration are organizing a political campaign to restore financial benefits to more than a million Americans who have been out of work for more than six months.
Modest unemployment benefits are customarily paid by U.S. states to people unemployed for up to 26 weeks. During difficult economic times, Washington may fund additional emergency benefits that continue for months longer.
While overall unemployment has fallen to 7 percent, nearly four out of 10 jobless people have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer, a level Democrats call "unprecedented."
The emergency program started during the recession recently expired, cutting benefits that typically run about $300 a week for 1.3 million people.
Government economists say cutting this spending will cost another 200,000 people their jobs this year. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich says that is because cutting this spending cuts demand for goods, and that reduces the need for workers to create them.
"They are critical to the rest of the economy," he said. "Their livelihoods and their spending is important for the rest of the economy to get out of the gravitational pull of the great recession."
Reich is an economics professor who joined key Congressional Democrats in a briefing for journalists Friday in Washington.
Many Republicans are skeptical of the program, which would cost $20 billion or more. House Speaker John Boehner has said he wants the cost of extending this program to be made up by cutting expenses somewhere else in the budget. Senator Rand Paul argues that unemployment benefits are a dis-incentive to find work.
But former Labor Secretary Reich says the problem is a lack of jobs, not a lack of effort to find work.
Senate Democrats say they will hold a preliminary procedural vote on a plan to restore benefits on Monday.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.