Federal Policy Initiatives

The unemployment insurance program is the nation's first line of defense against a recession, helping to boost the economy and serve communities hardest hit by job losses. While the states play the lead in setting program rules, the federal government also has a critical role in establishing minimum standards for the states and ensuring that the funding is there to pay for federal extended benefits when necessary. 

With the help of our state partners, NELP works to leverage the federal role in the unemployment insurance program to expand access to benefits and strengthen the program to serve the fundamental national interests it was designed to protect. 

  • Modernizing Unemployment Insurance-The American Recovery and Reinvestment ActOn February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which made historic changes to the unemployment program. The act provided federal incentive awards to states that expand access to benefits to low-wage, women, and part-time workers and the long-term unemployed. If enacted, the bill would help another 500,000 workers collect jobless benefits every year and provide needed funding for the states to better run their basic UI services, and additional extended benefits and health care coverage for the jobless. Click here to check NELP's campaign to fully implement the stimulus bill.

  • Extended Jobless BenefitsThe growing problem of long-term joblessness means that today's workers rely more and more on federal extended unemployment benefits when their basic 26 weeks of state assistance runs out.  NELP has been a leader in successful efforts to temporarily extend jobless benefits during the past two recessions and to fix the permanent federal program of extended benefits.  NELP's website for jobless workers [www.unemployedworkers.org] provides helpful resources and details on the latest initiatives to extend federal jobless benefits.
  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance:  Federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits provide federal benefits to workers who lose their livelihood because of a disaster but who do not qualify for state unemployment benefits (such as the self-employed and individuals who were recently hired).  NELP was at the forefront of the effort to help deliver DUA benefits to hundreds of thousands of workers left jobless after Hurricane Katrina and the September 11th attacks, while also advocating for major improvements to the program in Congress.

See also our UI research page for more information on long-term joblessness and extended benefits.

For more informationon our work in this area, please contact Maurice Emsellem, emsellem@nelp.org.

Other key resources:

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Economic Policy Institute

National Association of State Workforce Agencies