WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed a 26-billion-dollar bill to help states prevent teacher layoffs and pay for their Medicaid bills, hours after the House of Representatives gave it a green light.
By a vote of 247 to 161, the House on Tuesday afternoon passed the measure, designed to ease the tight state budget amid a sharp decline in tax revenues during the worst recession since the 1930s. Last week, the Senate voted 61 to 39 to approve the measure.
Representatives were called back by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from their summer recess to pass the bill, in an attempt to act swiftly to prevent teacher layoffs before schools reopen.
President Obama made a last-minute pitch for the bill hours before the House took the final vote.
"We can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe," said Obama, surrounded by teachers in the White House Rose Garden.
The bill includes 10 billion dollars allocated to school districts to help states avoid layoffs of teachers. The White House estimated that would save about 160,000 teachers' jobs.
In the year ended June 30, more than 85,000 local-government education employees lost their jobs, according to the Labor Department.
The bill also contains 16 billion dollars in additional funding to help states make their Medicaid payments. That would free up money for states to meet other budget priorities, including keeping more than 150,000 police officers, firefighters and other public employees on the payroll.
Democrats said the measure would not further burden the federal budget, since the money will be in part from a 12-billion-dollar cut to food stamps beginning in early 2014 and a tax increase through restrictions on multinational companies to use foreign tax credits to reduce their U.S. taxes.