WASHINGTON -- Chicago's economy will suffer and unemployment numbers will continue to rise unless Congress acts swiftly to pass an economic stimulus package, Illinois political leaders said on Tuesday.
Democratic members of the House and Senate joined Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to push for quick action on the bill at a news conference Tuesday. Daley and several aides are in Washington to encourage lawmakers to include Chicago projects in the stimulus package.
"The job stimulus bill is vital," Daley said. "It's necessary. There is a crisis out there. It is worse than a recession, what you see in this country. I don't care where you go. Everywhere, it's worse."
Federal money could be put to swift use in Chicago, Daley said.
Though the mayor declined to get into specifics, he said the pace of improvements at O'Hare International Airport could quicken with an injection of federal cash. He also said Chicago could use the money to improve schools and fund road projects in the city.
Daley's decision to come to Washington underscored the severity of Chicago's problems, said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.
"There's no doubt about it, he's been a regular visitor because he sees what is going on," Durbin said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
All of the speakers on Tuesday made clear time is of the essence for Chicago -- and Illinois as a whole.
Durbin said Illinois lost 36,000 jobs in December and predicted January numbers would be "as bad or worse."
"Each one of these steps adds time, and in some areas takes away some money," Durbin said. "So we want to try ... to move as much money as quickly as possible back to Chicago and back to Illinois."
Sen. Roland Burris echoed Durbin.
"This is an urgent time," he said. "We must recognize that there are some crises that we are dealing with. This is more than even what we experienced in the '30s."
Daley said Chicago, in particular, suffered from a lack of action. Thousands of people in the city are now unemployed, he said, and they have little prospect of finding new work without help.
"The most frightening thing is whether these people who are laid off now will ever be put back to work," he said. "How long are we talking about -- a year and a half, two, three or four years? Other people have lost their jobs permanently they're not going to be put back to work."
Rep. Jan Schakowsky offered her own anecdote to illustrate the dire state of the economy. She talked about driving through the city recently, passing an unemployment office. She said the parking lot was packed.
"Mayor," she said, turning toward Daley, "I need to talk to you about the lack of parking at the unemployment office."