WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama announced new steps to help unemployed Americans Friday, targeting people out of work who want to go back to school.
The president outlined a plan under which the Department of Education will send colleges legal guidance encouraging them to increase financial aid packages for the unemployed so they can enroll in educational and training programs, while keeping their unemployment benefits.
Under Obama's initiative, colleges would consider a person's current financial situation to make it possible for them to receive Pell grants, which are available for low-income students. The unemployed person would not lose any unemployment benefits and the maximum Pell grant would be increased in July by
$500 to $5,350.
The Labor Department will also issue guidance "strongly encouraging" states to modernize their rules to allow more unemployed to continue their education without forfeiting their benefits.
"In a twenty-first century economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, education is the single best bet we can make," Obama said.
The unemployment system should not just be a safety net, but "a stepping stone to a new future. ... It should offer folks educational opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have, and give them the measurable and differentiated skills they need to not just get through these hard times, but to get ahead when the economy comes back."
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Fannie Mae, the troubled mortgage finance company, reported a first-quarter loss of $23.2 billion on Friday.
The mortgage giant also reported that it submitted a request for $19 billion from the Treasury Department to cover its losses. That followed a request earlier this year for $15.2 billion to cover 2008 losses.
It also said Treasury has doubled its support level to the company to $200 billion, as President Obama had authorized.
In its quarterly release, Fannie Mae said its entire mortgage portfolio was experiencing increases in delinquency and default rates. It blamed the rise in unemployment, falling home prices and the revaluation of homes in the wake of the economic downturn.
(CNN) - CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley reports on how same-sex marriage and other gay rights issues may pose challenges for President Obama.
Related video: Army fires gay Arab linguist
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will miss a chance to chat up President Obama this weekend because she's cancelling plans to attend the White House Correspondents' dinner, but she's got a good excuse.
Palin on Wednesday declared a state of emergency because of record flooding in Eagle, Alaska. "It's basically wiped out a town," Bill McAllister, Palin's communications director, told CNN.
Palin was slated to be a guest of Fox News at the annual dinner.
McAllister confirmed Palin will stay in Alaska this weekend and will no longer attend Saturday night’s annual press dinner headlined by Obama this year for the first time.
The former Republican presidential candidate has also pulled out of co-hosting a Friday night dinner for the Republican Governors Association with South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. The dinner is a thank you to donors who have contributed at least $25,000 to the group. The dinner for 50 will be held at the Virginia home of Fred Malek, a major Republican fundraiser.
Nick Ayers, executive director of the RGA, told CNN the event was a "hot ticket" in part because of Palin's involvement and he's now searching for a new co-host with Sanford.
Ayers briefly interrupted a phone interview to take a call from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, who had considered making the trip to fill in for Palin but could not make it happen.
The RGA is now hoping Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, another hot property in Republican circles, can attend instead.
"We'll have a good group there," said Ayers.
(CNN) - Former Vice President Dick Cheney is weighing into the heated internal debate over the future of the Republican Party, declaring it would be a mistake for the GOP to "moderate."
"This is about fundamental beliefs and values and ideas … what the role of government should be in our society, and our commitment to the Constitution and constitutional principles," Cheney said in an interview with North Dakota radio host Scott Hennen Thursday, according to a transcript.
"You know, when you add all those things up, the idea that we ought to moderate basically means we ought to fundamentally change our philosophy," Cheney also said. "I for one am not prepared to do that, and I think most of us aren’t. Most Republicans have a pretty good idea of values, and aren’t eager to have someone come along and say, 'Well, the only way you can win is if you start to act more like a Democrat.'"
Cheney's comments come a week after longtime Republican Sen. Arlen Specter formally left the GOP, in part, Specter said, because the party has "moved farther and farther to the right."
Specter's defection immediately unleashed a debate among Republicans over what type of candidates the party should embrace going forward as it seeks to regain control in Washington and establish a foothold in regions of the country where the GOP once dominated.
Earlier: Specter defection highlights GOP divide in South Carolina
In the interview Thursday, Cheney also said it's time for the older leaders of the party - like him - to exit the stage.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The quickest reaction to this morning's unemployment report apparently goes to House Minority Leader John Boehner.
His office sent out a statement of Boehner's reaction to the April jobs report just six minutes after the Labor Department announced the news, which shows that the nation's unemployment level jumped to 8.9 percent.
(Read Boehner's full statement after the jump)
NEW YORK (CNN) - The crown of the Statue of Liberty will re-open to tourists on July 4, spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff of the U.S. Interior Department said Friday.
The crown has been closed since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The National Park Service closed the crown amid worries that it would be difficult for visitors to evacuate quickly in the event of an emergency.
Tourists have been able to visit other parts of the statue.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the federal government planned to give "America a special gift" by re-opening the crown.
"We are once again inviting the public to celebrate our great nation and the hope and opportunity it symbolizes by climbing to Lady Liberty's crown for a unique view of New York Harbor, where the forebears of millions of American families first saw the world," he said in a statement.
Access to the crown will be limited to 10 people at a time guided by a National Park Service ranger.
A gift from France to the United States, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924 and restored for its centennial on July 4, 1986.
It stands just across New York Harbor from where the Twin Towers stood.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – The unemployment rate hit a 25-year high in April, but there were signs of hope as the monthly job loss total fell to the lowest level in six months.
The Labor Department reported that employers cut 539,000 jobs from payrolls in the month. That's an improvement from the revised reading of 699,000 that were lost in March, and the best reading since October, when the economy shed 380,000 jobs.
Still, that brings job losses since the start of 2008 to 5.7 million.
The unemployment rate, based on a separate survey rose to 8.9% from 8.5% in March, the worst reading since September 1983. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast the rate would rise to 8.9%.
Economists had forecast a loss of 600,000 in April, but there had been signs in recent days that the job losses might not be as bad as they expected. A reading on private sector employment by payroll services firm ADP showed a big drop in job losses in April, and there has been a steady decline in recent weeks in people filing for first-time unemployment benefits.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) - New unemployment numbers are due out Friday and president Barack Obama will use the opportunity to announce new steps to help unemployed Americans.
The target of the rules will be people out of work who want to go back to school. Rules now create a catch 22: In most cases, if you are receiving unemployment compensation you have to be actively looking for a job. If you want to get more education or training, you have to give up unemployment benefits. But if you return to school you don't qualify for federal education grants since, in most cases, your qualification is based on your previous year's income.
The president is scheduled to outline a plan under which the Department of Education will send colleges legal guidance encouraging them to increase financial aid packages for the unemployed so they can enroll in educational and training programs, while keeping their unemployment benefits.
The colleges would consider the person's current financial situation to make it possible for them to receive Pell grants, which are available for low-income students. The unemployed person would not lose their unemployment benefits and the maximum Pell grant would be increased in July by $500 to $5,350.
The Labor Department will issue guidance "strongly encouraging" states to modernize their rules to allow more unemployed to continue their education without forfeiting their benefits.
President Obama, in prepared remarks, will say, "Our unemployment insurance system should no longer be a safety net, but a stepping stone to a new future. It should offer folks educational opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have, and give them the measurable and differentiated skills they need to not just get through these hard times, but to get ahead when the economy comes back."
The government is started a new Web site with information on the plan: http://www.opportunity.gov.
(CNN) - Think of all the problems that U.S. President Barack Obama is facing - the economy, two wars, Somali pirates and the Swine flu - and you can easily forget the one that went away.
It's Hillary Clinton, who literally went away, traveling as America's top diplomat to Switzerland and South Korea, Ireland and Indonesia, and several ports of call in between. She still works in Washington, but in a way few of us would have expected.
Think back: Obama and Clinton spent a long time plotting against each other, competing in a drawn-out contest for their party's presidential nomination. It was a battle bitter enough to threaten to split the Democrats and cost them the election.