BOISE -- US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez says the nation's Emergency Unemployment Compensation needs to be extended after Congress let it run out at the end of December.

It's all-hands-on-deck enterprise, because people are suffering and time is of the essence, said Perez.

The EUC is a federal extension that provides additional weeks of unemployment benefits after people have run out of regular unemployment benefits. Somewhere between 2500 and 4000 Idahoans were getting EUC, which Perez calls a lifeline.

Emergency unemployment benefits are what allows them to pay their rent, to buy food, while they are searching for a job.

Perez says in order to get the benefits, people have to be actively looking for a job. I've heard the argument made that people who are getting these benefits have an incentive to sit home. The opposite is true. They're required to look, and when you eliminate these benefits, you actually incentivise people to leave the marketplace, and we don't want to do that.

But Congress has chosen not to extend those benefits. Idaho Senator Jim Risch says that comes down to one reason, cost.

Senator Risch says he supports the program, but he s also fighting for a balanced budget. Those in need can contact my office for help. The proposed unemployment benefit extension would cost 6 billion additional dollars. Because of this, it would be worth considering only if acceptable cuts to other programs could be identified.

Senator Mike Crapo says Congress should fund for emergencies like unemployment extensions, but only in a manner that doesn't push more spending onto future generations. We can utilize existing federal dollars for this economic emergency, and that should be the first place to look to avoid adding to our 17 trillion dollar national debt, said Senator Crapo.

Secretary Perez responded to that idea by saying, The last five times that Congress has extended these benefits, starting in the Bush Administration, there were no strings attached. We're working with members of Congress now. We're looking to find a way to pay for these things. And hopefully, a compromise can be reached in that regard. Because, the reason they're called Emergency Unemployment Compensation Benefits, is because people right now, are in a crisis.

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