Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell recently stated that unemployment rates are expected to soar to 25 percent, reaching Great Depression levels. Millions of people are out of work, furloughed, or unable to return to work because it is unsafe or they are lacking the necessary child care to do so. As of March, the unemployed are majority women and almost 40 percent come from lower-income households.
We are thankful for the expansions of the unemployment insurance (UI) system that Congress has already passed but much more needs to be done in order to stop the suffering of our families and to stop the crashing of our economy.
The House-passed HEROES Act is a great start for what our families need to continue to make ends meet. Unemployment insurance is a vital lifeline and keeps many families afloat during this pandemic and the economic after effects economists are predicting. We need Congress to ensure this safety net will be available to all who need it until our economy has sufficiently recovered. In particular, improvements to the Unemployment Insurance programs should include:
- At least $30 billion investment for state UI administration and updating technology.
- Continue the $600 boost past July 31st and tie its phase out to economic indicators.
- Set up a tiered system of UI benefits (similar to what was done during the Great Recession). Triggers should be related to the status of the economy, rather than ending on a particular date.
- Implement structural UI reform, including mandatory 26 weeks of benefits for each state; mandatory wage replacement rates; mandatory work sharing; and fixing the Emergency Benefits program.
- Establish a Jobseekers Allowance of 13 weeks, at a lower benefit amount, for workers who are not covered by regular or pandemic unemployment insurance. This includes the millions of students graduating into this economy who will fall through the cracks of the current program and are unable to find work.
Without a strong unemployment insurance system our families will continue to suffer and our economy will be slow to recover. Please make sure these improvements to the existing program are included in the next COVID-19 relief bill.
Thank you for standing with struggling families during their time of need.