One of the first things U.S. Congressman Joaquín Castro is hoping to accomplish for 2014 is to reinstate the country’s extended unemployment benefits that expired this past weekend.
Democrats on Capitol Hill are vowing to fight to reinstate those benefits for the 1.3 million Americans still struggling to find work. Castro told NBC's "Meet The Press" that Congress needs to make this a priority as a first order of business in 2014.
"In Texas alone we’ve got 66,000 people who lost their benefits, 235,000 people in all who will lose their benefits midway in 2014," Castro said.
At the beginning of the recession, Congress approved an extension of unemployment benefits to 13 weeks and as the recession deepened so did the extension, averaging between 40-73 weeks of assistance. Those long term benefits expired this weekend.
Castro said that hurts more than just the people out of work:
"So it’s not only the benefits, which by the way only average about $300 a month, it’s not only benefits to them but also all that economic development for the rest of the country, for retailers, for grocers, etcetera," Castro said.
Republicans argue that the extension was always supposed to be temporary and now that the nation’s unemployment rate has reached 7 percent, it is time to bring unemployment benefits down to a 26 week average.
GOP lawmakers say reinstating the benefits could cost an extra $25 billion a year. A set of bills in the Senate would allow for a three-month extension of federal long term unemployment benefits, but it has little chance of making it through.