Easing the Financial Burden on the Unemployed: States and the Federal Government Taking Action

While the Great Recession has been hard on families across the country, both states and the federal government have stepped up in unprecedented ways to ease the financial burden on the unemployed through extended benefits and modernization of state programs.  Compared to pre-recession rules that generally provided only 26 weeks of unemployment insurance, federal action extended support for up to 99 weeks in states hit hardest by the recession.  See map below, courtesy of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities  Click image for a larger version online..

Both the Senate and House have passed separate bills that contain an unemployment insurance extension; however, the chambers have not agreed on a final version.  Congress needs to move a bill to the President's desk quickly as part of a more general new round of state fiscal relief to support economic growth.  If you are a state lawmaker, please sign onto this letter calling on the federal government to enact a comprehensive jobs plan.

Modernizing State UI Programs:  State governments have also continued to move forward in modernizing their unemployment insurance systems, taking advantage of last year's Recovery Act which made $7 billion available to states to help groups of workers who traditionally fall through the cracks of the program, including low-wage workers, women, and part-time workers.

Last year, 28 states enacted reforms to qualify for incentive funding, with 14 new states adopting the so-called alternative base period and seven states providing benefits to workers in training programs.  This year, Alaska and South Dakota increased the incentive funding for which they qualify through additional modernization of their UI programs, while Maryland, Utah and Nebraska all newly qualified for UI incentive funds through modernization legislation enacted this year.  Including states that had enacted reforms prior to the Recovery Act, a total of 31 states have enacted reforms that qualify for full or partial incentive funding.

Of the 21 remaining states that have not claimed their full share of ARRA incentive funding, 12 have introduced reform legislation this year and seven states, including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Washington, and the District of Columbia, still have pending bills.  See the National Employment Law Project’s (NELP's) state-by-state summary of 2010 state legislation implementing the unemployment modernization provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

For NELP's breakdown of the legislation enacted last year, see Federal Stimulus Funding Produces Unprecedented Waiver of State Unemployment Insurance Reforms  and their model legislation.  Also, see below for a map of reforms enacted in 2009. Click image for a larger version online.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - Policy Basics: How Many Weeks of Unemployment Compensation Are Available?
National Employment Law Project - State-By-State Summary of 2010 State Legislation
National Employment Law Project - Federal Stimulus Funding Produces Unprecedented Waiver of State Unemployment Insurance Reforms
National Employment Law Project - UI Modernization Model Legislation