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Obama urges CEOs to hire long-term unemployed after benefits extension fails

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In effort to compensate for Congress not extending unemployment benefits to the long-term jobless, on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 President Barack Obama urged CEOs of 20 major companies to not "discriminate" and give them an equal chance and hire those unemployed for a long time. The President signed an executive memorandum that would require the federal government not to discriminate against the long-term jobless during the hiring process. At this moment there are 4 million Americans that have been unemployed for over six months and those are the ones most affected and that President Obama wants to help. First President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with the CEOs of those 20 companies at the White House prior to the event and so far a total of 300 major companies and corporations have "signed on" to the President's initiative. It was the third program President Obama signed into law without Congress this week.

President Obama began his remarks introducing the purpose of the event; "We're here to focus on… connecting more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs, so that folks who are out of work can apply the skills that they've already got. And getting people back on the job faster is one of our top priorities." Among the CEOs in attendance were from the following companies; "eBay Inc , Boeing Corp, Bank of America Corp, McDonald's Corp, Marriott International and Walgreen Co." President Obama told them for those unemployed for a long time "It's a cruel Catch-22 - the longer you're unemployed, the more unemployable you may seem."

A recent study conducted by "University of Toronto, McGill University and the University of Chicago" where they sent out fake CVs where the only difference was the months the "candidates" were unemployed, employers were less interested in the long-term unemployed which demonstrated a "bias" towards them. While a Massachusetts Institute of Technology experiment had similar results, showing that those unemployed less than a month received more interviews and had a advantage in the job market.

Obama was referring to those studies to back up his claims; "According to one study, if you've been out of work eight months, you're likely to get called back for an interview only about half as often as if you've been out of work one month -- even with the identical résumé."

The President was trying to convince employers that those unemployed for a long time just need an opportunity and a shot, explaining; "They just need employers to realize it doesn't reflect at all on their abilities or their value. It just means they've been dealing with the aftermath of this really tough job market, and all they need is a fair shot. We can give them that shot. And that's what today is all about."

Extended unemployment benefits expired on Dec. 28, 2013 leaving 1.3 million without benefits and each week thousands lose their benefits, Reuters states by the end of the year it will affect 4.9 million Americans. President Obama chastised Congress for not extending the benefits; "But I have to confess, last month, Congress made that harder by letting unemployment insurance expire for more than a million people. And each week that Congress fails to restore that insurance, roughly 72,000 Americans will join the ranks of the long-term unemployed who have also lost their economic lifeline." The President still urged Congress to renew and extend unemployment benefits.

The President promised to act to help the long-term unemployed even though Congress is not doing their part, keeping a long standing promise, stating; "So while Congress decides whether or not it's going to extend unemployment insurance for these Americans, we're going to go ahead and act. We know what works, and we're going to go ahead and see what we can do without additional legislation to make some serious dents in the long-term unemployment problem. We know what works for employers and employees alike."

President Obama announced a number of initiatives that with ease the path to employment. He stated that the number of companies that have pledged to work with the President to help hire the long-term jobless, announcing that "more than 80 of the nation's largest businesses, over 200 small- and medium-sized businesses are announcing their commitment to a set of Best Practices." Prior to the event some of the largest corporations in the country including; "Apple Inc , Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Ford Motor Co, General Motors Co, Proctor & Gamble Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co and AT&T" agreed to participate in the President's initiative.

Obama also announced that he is signing an executive order to make it easier for those long-term unemployed to get a job in the federal government, declaring; "I am directing every federal agency to make sure we are evaluating candidates on the level, without regard to their unemployment history. Because every job applicant deserves a fair shot." There were also a grant program announced which will fund a program linking the unemployed to prospective employers, with "LinkedIn" being involved with the initiative.

The President promised; "We're going to keep on knocking down barriers to re-employment so more of the nearly 4 million long-term unemployed Americans can regain the stability and security that a good job brings their families…. We're going to keep encouraging employers to welcome all applicants. You never know who is going to have the next great idea to grow your business." And reiterating his State of the Union he pledge; "We're going to keep building new ladders of opportunity for every American to climb into the middle class. It's good for our economy, but it's also good for our people."

In his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, Jan. 28 President Obama promised; "I've been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at new jobs, a new chance to support their families." As part of his economic opportunity program and promise for "a year of action" where the President intends to act when Congress will not.

The unemployment benefits extension stalled in the Senate on Wednesday, Jan. 15 after it failed with a vote of 55-45, unable move to the next stage since it could not muster the 60 votes needed, including the support of five Republicans. The Senate bipartisan plan would have extended unemployment benefits for another three months. Republicans and Democrats could not reach an agreement about the time length and way to pay for the costly extension.

During the 2008 recession when Republican George W. Bush was President the government enlarged the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program to extend unemployment benefits beyond the 26 weeks that the states give. During the recession the "combined" state and federal benefits gave unemployed Americans 99 weeks of relief. The federal government provides "47 weeks" of extended benefits averaging "$300 a week."

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Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.

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