Obama backs mayors’ call for more federal money, higher wage

Meeting with newly elected mayors at the White House Friday, President Obama called on Congress to spend more money “right away” for extended unemployment benefits and to raise the federal minimum wage to help struggling cities.

“You’ve got potentially 1.3 million people during Christmas time that are going to lose their unemployment benefits at a time when it’s still very difficult for a lot of folks to find a job,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s not just bad for those individuals and those families, that’s bad for our economy and that’s bad for our cities.”

A two-year budget deal approved by the House Thursday does not include a Democratic-backed extension of long-term unemployment benefits, which would cost taxpayers about $26 billion through next year. Senate leaders have said they will take up the matter when lawmakers return to Washington in January.

Mr. Obama said Congress should act on the unemployment benefits immediately, although the House has gone out of session for the holidays. He said the expiration of benefits will hurt local economies.

“If they don’t have the money to pay the rent and buy food for their families that has an impact on demand for our businesses and what we know is a failure to extend unemployment benefits is going to have a drag on economic growth next year,” the president said.

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