States May Get Federal Help to Modernize Unemployment Insurance

Thursday, July 26, 2007

States May Get Federal Help to Modernize Unemployment Insurance

Conference Call

The groundbreaking Healthy Wisconsin initiative, which guarantees health care for all residents, will be the subject of a conference call sponsored by Families USA, the Universal Health Care Action Network, and the Progressive States Network, who is hosting the call.

Wednesday, August 1st, from Noon to 1pm (EDT)

Join us and Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson, Wisconsin Sen. Jon Erpenbach, and Robert Kraig from Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

Valuing Families

by Nathan Newman

States May Get Federal Help to Modernize Unemployment Insurance

The unemployment insurance (UI) system is broken in states across the country. Large numbers of low-wage, part-time and women workers don't get help when they are laid off; in fact, only 35% of laid-off workers are able to collect jobless benefits, a rate far below protections offered decades ago. 

To help states modernize their unemployment systems, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced a bill yesterday that would provide $7 billion in incentive funds over five years to states that adopt model UI reforms. 

The National Employment Law Project (NELP), which is helping lead the fight for passage of the law, has produced a summary and an extensive analysis of the proposed reform legislation, with the bottom line being that states will receive funding to extend help to 500,000 additional workers each year if they adopt proposed model UI reforms. The key reforms states will be encouraged to adopt include:

  • Using an "alternative base period" that recognizes the most recent earnings of a worker in calculating eligibility
  • Extending benefits to part-time workers
  • Protecting benefits for those who leave jobs because of domestic violence, a spouse's necessary relocate, or the necessity of a new job that will accommodate scheduling to care for an ill family member
  • Providing additional benefits for unemployed workers with dependents
  • Extending benefits for dislocated workers needing retraining
  • Guaranteeing 26 weeks of assistance for the long-term jobless

Six states have already adopted the needed reforms to qualify for their full allotment of incentive funds under the bill, but other states can qualify for the funds simply by adopting the model rules (see the map below courtesy of NELP for current disparities between the states in UI coverage).  All states will qualify for a share of $500 million to upgrade the administration of their systems and improve reemployment services. The whole incentive program will be paid for by reauthorization of the current federal UI surtax, which is set to expire at the end of this year. 

NELP and other advocates are asking legislators and state activists to write their Governor or other state officials (using this sample letter ) to work with their state's senators to push for passage of this bill to assist states in these UI reforms.

More Resources

Strengthening Communities

by J. Mijin Cha

The Sky is Falling: Manhattan's Aging Infrastructure Causes Explosion and Concern

Last week, an explosion beneath a street near Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan sent a giant stream of scalding, brownish steam up through the street and into the sky. The explosion caused a large crater, roughly 35-40 feet wide, and was so strong that it flipped over a tow truck. The cloud of steam and hail of debris from the explosion lasted more than two hours and raised concerns of asbestos contamination. The cause of the blast? Not as some rushed to assert, a terrorist attack, but an underground steam pipe constructed in 1924 that exploded when too much cold rain water leaked on it. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg acknowledged this when he stated, "There is no reason to believe this is anything other than a failure of our infrastructure."

New York has endured several pipe explosions in the recent past, including one in 2000 near Washington Square that blew a 15-foot crater in the street and one in 1989 that killed three people and sent mud and debris several stories into the air. However, the problem is not exclusive to New York City. Instead, as Sarah Catz, director of the Center for Urban Infrastructure at the University of California, Irvine, said, "We have an aging infrastructure in this country, and we are not doing enough to maintain it and replace it. What you saw happen in New York will happen in all types of infrastructure." 

As we pointed out in May, the U.S. infrastructure is an economic disaster waiting to happen. The extent of the problem was pointed out by an Urban Land Institute report and the American Society for Civil Engineers, which estimates that $1.6 trillion is needed over a five-year period to bring the nation's infrastructure into good condition. It seems like a pretty steep price tag, but let's consider the cost of the latest infrastructure explosion: 1) millions of dollars just for clean up and repair of the crater, 2) significant losses for businesses in the area of the explosions-- there are 125 ground-floor retailers in the area, and 3) loss of one life and injuries to more than 40 people. Instead of giving tax breaks to the rich and cutting crucial spending, investing that money into infrastructure repair can help prevent accidents like the one last week. Not to mention that repairing bridges and roads, for instance, creates more jobs than building new roads or bridges. The sooner we start repairing our infrastructure, the sooner things will stop exploding.

More Resources

Research Roundup

Research Roundup

In a chilling report casting doubt on criminal convictions across the country, a law review article by UVA Professor of Law Brandon Garrett in the Columbia Law Review highlights evidence that literally thousands of people are serving long sentences for crimes they did not commit.  In many cases, innocent people were convicted based on erroneous identification by eyewitnesses, faulty forensic evidence (far less effective than CSI would lead people to believe), false testimony by informants, and false confessions.

A packet of new health care studies were released this week:

  • In a new brief, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzes differences between U.S. House and Senate versions of SCHIP reauthorization legislation, finding that 1.1 million more children would have coverage under the proposed House bill than under the Senate bill.
  • A study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that Medicaid rolls declined in many states after Congress imposed new documentation requirements-- and most of those losing coverage were legal residents eligible for coverage but unable to produce the necessary documents.
  • As California and other states consider extending health-care coverage to undocumented immigrants, a new policy brief by the UCLA Center for Health Policy finds that available health benefits have no influence on the destination choice of undocumented immigrants, so extending health coverage -- despite the propaganda of opponents -- will not act as a lure for new immigrants.

In Myth vs. Reality: U.S. Broadband Policy and International Broadband Rankings, Free Press highlights why the U.S. has sunk to 15th place in broadband deployment among the 30 developed nations in the OECD - and debunks myths by industry defending the current failure of U.S. technology policies.

If the federal government provided funds to keep community college computer labs open three nights a week for community resident education, a new report by the NDN Globalization Initiative argues this would radically expand access to the computer skills needed by many looking for work in the current economy.

Please email us leads on good research at


States May Get Federal Help to Modernize Unemployment Insurance

Bill Text, UI Modernization Act

NELP, Summary of the UI Modernization Act

NELP, Full Report on the UI Modernization Act

Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, Addressing Longstanding Gaps in Unemployment Insurance Coverage

The Sky is Falling: Manhattan's Aging Infrastructure Causes Explosion and Concern

Urban Land Institute, Infrastructure 2007: A Global Perspective

American Society of Civil Engineers, Report Card for America's Infrastructure

Surface Transportation Policy Project, Setting the Record Straight: Transit, Fixing Roads and Bridges Offers Greatest Job Gains

Time, Cities Breaking Down

Drum Major Institute Blog, When Infrastructure Attacks

Progressive States Network: U.S. Infrastructure, An Economic Disaster Waiting to Happen

Eye on the Right

New York real estate tycoon Howard Rich is up to it again. Echoing previous reports that Rich poured million dollars into conservative state ballot initiatives in 2006 through a network of shadowy organizations, the National Institute on Money in State Politics recently documented that Rich used secretive tactics to funnel $6 million specifically into a right-wing property rights initiatives in the states.  Using front organizations and disclosing as little information as possible, Rich embodies the "astroturf" tactics of monied interests that use hidden political contributions through multiple avenues to give credibility to supposedly "local" campaigns.

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The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate


Please shoot me an email at if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

John Bacino
Editor, Stateside Dispatch


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