Obama presses Congress on UI renewal, jobs initiatives

President Obama urged Congress on Tuesday to renew a federal unemployment benefits program while also calling on companies to hire the long-term unemployed and for an overhaul of job training programs.

"I'm also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy," Obama said in his State of the Union address.  
 
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"But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people."
 
The Senate has been working on forging a bipartisan bill but has yet to reach an agreement. 
 
House Democrats have taken the fight to their districts, trying to highlight that it is Republicans holding up a restoration of the program, which provides an average of about 50 weeks of benefits. 
 
Obama also tasked Vice President Joe Biden to lead an across-the-board reform of training programs that will aim to better match workers' skills with what employers need and, in turn, lead to good jobs.
 
"That means more on-the-job training and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life," he said.
 
"It means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs."
 
He said to help out, Congress should concentrate on providing funding on proven programs that connect workers with jobs.  
"I’ve been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at that new job and new chance to support their families," he said.
 
"This week, many will come to the White House to make that commitment real."
 
He asked business leader across the country to "join us and to do the same — because we are stronger when America fields a full team."