Just minutes after the Senate voted to advance a measure to extend unemployment benefits Tuesday morning, Katherine Hackett of Moodus introduced President Obama at a White House event designed to urge the House to approve the measure.
Hackett wrote to Obama about her situation, and he responded by inviting her to Tuesday’s event in the East Room of the White House.
Hackett, grey-haired and gaunt, spoke eloquently about her plight.
After expressing gratitude for the invitation, she said, “I am unemployed, and I am significantly affected” by the cutoff of unemployment benefits.
“Job loss is devastating, and I’m working very hard every day to find a new position,” but in the meantime, she said, the unemployment benefit is vital to meet the bare necessities of mortgage and health care.
“I have cut expenses every way possible. I am not just staying home enjoying the good life,” she said. She says her house is heated only to 58 degrees and she wears a hat and coat inside, because “oil is expensive.” She said, “I’ve lost weight, because food is expensive.”
“I am a single mother,” she said. “I worked many different jobs and never asked for a handout while I raised two wonderful boys. Both are serving in the U.S. military.
“It was very hard to let one of my boys serve a year in Afghanistan, but I did, and he was proud to serve his country.
“I hope our leaders in Washington can find a way to help families like ours.”
Obama saying he was struck by her “strength and dignity,” said, “You heard Katherine’s story. And she’s far more eloquent than I could ever be. She wrote me last month to say, “Please let those who think I am sitting at home enjoying being unemployed know that I would much rather be working.” And I had a chance to talk to Katherine, and I think it’s pretty clear that that’s the case.”
He added, “when we’ve got the mom of two of our troops, who is working hard out there, but is having to wear a coat inside the house, we’ve got a problem. And it’s one that can be fixed. ”
“In the past, both parties have repeatedly put partisanship and ideology aside to offer some security for job-seekers with no strings attached. It’s been done regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans were in the White House. It’s been done regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans controlled Congress. And, by the way, it’s been done multiple times when the unemployment rate was significantly lower than it is today,” Obama said.
The Senate still must vote again on final passage of the measure, and then it must pass the House. Republicans in both houses have demanded that Obama provide offsetting budget cuts to pay for the unemployment benefit extension _ something that has not been done historically with unemployment benefits, under both Democratic and Republican administrations.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Tuesday, “One month ago I personally told the White House that another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work. To date, the president has offered no such plan. If he does, I’ll be happy to discuss it.”
Obama said, “Two weeks ago, Congress went home for the holidays and let this lifeline expire for 1.3 million Americans. If this doesn’t get fixed, it will hurt about 14 million Americans over the course of this year: 5 million workers along with 9 million of their family members — their spouses, their kids.
“People when they bump into some tough times, like Katherine, they’re not looking for pity. They just want a shot. And they just want to feel as if — as a part of this country, as a part of their communities, that if misfortune strikes, all the things that they’ve done in the past, all the hard work they’ve done raising children and paying taxes and working hard, that that counts for something, and that folks aren’t suddenly just going to dismiss their concerns, but we’re going to rally behind them. That’s not too much to ask. That’s who we are as Americans.”