Life After Layoffs: A City's Struggle to Survive

President Obama warned today that the nation has "inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression" and that "we can no longer afford to wait and see and hope for the best."

Obama traveled to Elkhart, Ind., a community that has seen the largest jump in unemployment of any area in the country, to stump for his economic stimulus package.

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The Senate is expected Tuesday to pass its $827 billion version of the bill, but that legislation must then be reconciled with the House stimulus plan.

"We can no longer posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place -- and that the American people rejected at the polls," Obama told a crowd of 1,700 people.

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Obama defended his approach to the stimulus debate. "The plan will save or create 3 to 4 million jobs over the next two years. But not just any jobs -- jobs that meet the needs we've neglected for far too long and lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth."

The new jobs, Obama told the crowd at a town hall-style event, include "fixing our schools; computerizing medical records to save costs and save lives; repairing our infrastructure; and investing in renewable energy to help us move toward energy independence."

Read the Full Text of Obama's Speech

The campaigning continues tonight with a prime-time news conference from Washington at 8 p.m. and then, tomorrow, the president heads to Fort Myers, Fla., an area hit hard by housing foreclosures.

Since the recession started in December 2007, the country has lost 3.6 million jobs, nearly 600,000 of those lost in January alone.

Obama today said the economic story is more than just numbers.

"We're talking about folks who've lost their livelihood and don't know what will take its place," he said. "Parents who've lost their health care and lie awake nights praying the kids don't get sick. Families who've lost the home that was their corner of the American dream."

The U.S. Unemployment Capital

Obama's message appeared to hit home with the residents of Elkhart who snapped up tickets to the event in just 40 minutes.

Nowhere else in America has the unemployment rate jumped so high, so fast than in Elkhart.

A year ago, this northern Indiana community was prospering, with unemployment hovering at 4.7 percent. But the recession hit and it hit hard in the summer.

Several big recreational vehicle manufacturers slashed jobs. Then their suppliers followed with layoffs. Unemployment in December reached 15.3 percent, which is more than one out of every seven people without work.

"Our plant just closed down," Ed Neufeldt, who lost his job with RV manufacturer Monaco Coach Sept. 17 told ABC News a few weeks ago. "They just closed the doors."

Today, Neufeldt got the privilege of introducing Obama.

Based on ABC News calculations of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Elkhart's unemployment rate has more than tripled in the last 12 months -- it's the highest increase of any metropolitan area in the country.

After 32 years with Monaco Coach, Neufeldt finds himself on unemployment, searching for a new job when most local companies are laying people off.

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