NELP Applauds the Introduction of the Unemployment Insurance Modernization and Recession Readiness Act

Nationwide — The National Employment Law Project (NELP) applauds the introduction of the Unemployment Insurance Modernization and Recession Readiness Act by Senators Wyden (D-OR) and Bennet (D-CO) and Representative Beyer (D-VA).

“Anyone who is out of work should be able to sustain themselves and their families until they can find a new job,” said Rebecca Dixon, president and CEO of NELP. “Yet our current unemployment insurance system falls far short. The majority of jobless workers aren’t eligible for benefits, with Black and Latinx workers disproportionately excluded. Workers who do get benefits often receive too little support to make ends meet. And a growing number of states are dramatically limiting the number of weeks that UI is available, so that workers lose support long before they find new jobs. By setting strong national standards that every state must meet, this bill makes critical repairs to our social infrastructure, ensuring that workers will not be left out when the next recession hits.”

Research from NELP and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities revealed that the nation’s unemployment insurance system is alarmingly unprepared for another recession. The Unemployment Insurance Modernization and Recession Readiness Act ensures workers, employers, and the economy will be better equipped to withstand the next economic downturn and come back thriving. It also guarantees that workers who lose their jobs under any economic conditions will have a stronger and more inclusive system to rely on.

The bill modernizes the Extended Benefits program that makes additional weeks of unemployment benefits available in times of high unemployment and makes essential reforms to the regular unemployment insurance system, including mandating that states offer at least 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, raising benefit amounts to replace a greater share of workers’ prior earnings, and increasing coverage for part-time workers, temp workers, and workers whose earnings fluctuate over time. The legislation also increases access to unemployment benefits for workers who must quit their jobs for certain compelling reasons, including unusual risks to their health and safety, a particularly important provision at a time of increasing climate disasters that threaten workers’ health.

The Unemployment Insurance Modernization and Recession Readiness Act also establishes a new benefit for jobless workers who are not covered by unemployment insurance or are eligible for only a small unemployment insurance payment. The federally funded Jobseeker Allowance would bolster self-employed workers, recent graduates, and parents and caregivers returning to the workforce as they look for jobs. The Jobseeker Allowance would also provide crucial support to people returning to the labor market after incarceration, who face exceptionally high levels of joblessness and numerous barriers to employment.

The Unemployment Insurance Modernization and Recession Readiness Act lays the groundwork for transforming the nation’s unemployment insurance system and enabling all workers to thrive. NELP urges Congress to pass this legislation.

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