Unemployment Insurance No. 328
Nearly 3.1 million private-sector jobs have been lost since President George W. Bush took office. Now, 8 million workers are looking for jobs. With the decline in employment opportunities, many Americans face long-term unemployment. As of mid-2005, more than 1.5 million have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more- close to record levels. This poses a large problem for working families who have little or no savings to rely on.
Unemployment compensation is supposed to be the first line of defense for workers and their families when job loss occurs. Unemployment compensation is a key part of the nation's safety net to help families maintain a minimum decent standard of living. Helping these families maintain their consumer buying power boosts the economy with a counter-cyclical stimulus when the economy is in recession. A recent study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor estimated that every $1 of unemployment compensation paid adds $2.15 to GDP.
Unfortunately, many jobless workers do not get any help from the nation's federal-state Unemployment Insurance (UI) system. Only 35 percent of all unemployed workers get regular state UI payments. And many long-term unemployed workers who did get regular UI state payments have exhausted these benefits. In May 2003, Congress renewed the Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation (TEUC) program that grants jobless workers an extra thirteen weeks of federal benefits after they have exhausted their regular twenty-six weeks of state benefits. TEUC has since been allowed to expire, over the strong objections of Congressional Democrats. More than a million workers have been left out: with no jobs and no unemployment insurance.
State UI programs are a crazy-quilt of low benefits, limited eligibility, and unfair disqualifications. Minimum federal standards are needed to ensure that low-wage, part-time and temporary workers, and workers with family responsibilities, are not unfairly denied coverage. UI information must be made available to jobless people with limited English proficiency. Benefits must be raised to provide greater support for jobless families.
Therefore, Americans for Democratic Action calls on Congress and the President to promptly enact unemployment compensation legislation to provide more jobless workers and their families with the income they urgently need. Extension of federal benefits for long-term jobless workers and reform of the federal-state Unemployment Insurance (UI) system should be given high priority.
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