NELP Calls for Inclusion of Unemployment Insurance Reform in Budget Reconciliation Legislation

Following is a statement by Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project: 

“Today, the House Ways and Means Committee released its draft of the provisions it will mark up in the budget reconciliation; glaringly absent were any provisions aimed at reforming the unemployment insurance system. That is simply unacceptable especially as emergency pandemic programs expired on September 6, Labor Day, pushing over 9 million workers off this benefits cliff. Budgets are moral documents. NELP reaffirms its call to Congress and the administration to commit to immediate UI reform that lays the groundwork for long-term transformation of the program, centering the needs of those most impacted so that it may function well for all workers.

“Congress must take the first steps to permanently reform the UI system so that it functions for all workers in good economic times as well as times of crisis. It is absolutely unacceptable for Congress to pass and the president to sign a reconciliation bill without taking the opportunity to reform this system which operates in such a systemically discriminatory fashion towards women and workers of color.

“Due to severe shortcomings in state UI programs, Congress had to create emergency pandemic unemployment programs in the CARES Act to offset barriers to eligibility, too-short payment durations, and inadequate benefit levels. These three pressing issues are priority UI fixes that can be taken on in the reconciliation budget. 

“The poor administration of the emergency pandemic programs has disproportionately impacted Black, Latinx, Indigenous, immigrant, and other workers of color, as confirmed in a recent GAO report. If we are to have a just economic recovery, that ensures racial and gender equity, UI reforms must happen now.

“It is a sad and avoidable policy choice to leave unemployed people across the country without needed support. NELP stands ready to work with Congress and the Administration to make the racial justice imperative of UI reform a reality.  Failure to do anything at this critical juncture is a betrayal of the workers who have suffered so badly over the course of this crisis, and those who will need the program in the future.”

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