A group of lawmakers recently urged President Joe Biden to prioritize unemployment insurance reform in the upcoming American Family Plan.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many cracks in our country’s unemployment insurance (UI) system. The problems go far beyond the administrative and technological challenges states have faced in paying out benefits,” the letter stated. “The system also fails to respond to economic downturns, to reach enough workers, or to provide adequate benefits. Workers of color are disproportionately affected by these failures. We urge you to include substantial and permanent UI reform in your Build Back Better plan so that UI will meet the needs of all workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.”
The letter was signed by Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) as well as Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). It was also endorsed by several House members, including the chair of the Joint Economic Committee Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA).
The lawmakers called for UI benefit levels and duration to be increased to protect unemployed workers from financial devastation. They also said UI must reach more workers. Finally, they called for the permanent-law Extended Benefits (EB) program to be reformed to better respond to economic downturns.