Two-thirds of Americans will experience at least one year of unemployment—either themselves or through their head of household—during their working years. For the past 80 years, unemployment insurance, or UI, has provided critical protection for involuntarily unemployed workers and their families by replacing a share of lost wages while workers search for new jobs. UI also helps stabilize the economy during downturns by boosting the spending power of struggling families and creating demand in the economy. In 2009 alone, UI kept more than 5 million Americans out of poverty and saved more than 2 million jobs.
As important as it has been in the past, the UI system has not kept pace with changes in the labor force or the economy. In 2014, only about 1 in 4 jobless workers received UI benefits—a historic low. With the next recession unpredictable—but inevitable—now is the time to update this crucial part of our social insurance system.
Three leading organizations dedicated to bolstering economic security and opportunity recently released a comprehensive package of reforms to modernize unemployment protections for American jobseekers. The proposal would make UI into a more robust employment, training, and income-security system for involuntarily unemployed workers, better connect workers to new job opportunities, and prepare the program for the next recession. In addition, the organizations propose a new Jobseeker’s Allowance—a moderate, short-term benefit for jobseekers who are not eligible for UI, such as independent contractors and gig economy workers, caregivers returning to the labor market, and young workers with limited job history.
Please join the Center for American Progress, the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, and the National Employment Law Project to discuss a plan to increase families’ economic security and better prepare the economy to withstand future downturns.
Carmel Martin, EVP of Policy, Center for American Progress
LaQuita Hatcher, M.S., advocate
Introduced by Rachel West, Associate Director, Poverty to Prosperity Program, Center for American Progress
Claire McKenna, Senior Policy Analyst, National Employment Law Project
Valerie Wilson, Director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy, Economic Policy Institute
Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Director of Project on Deep Poverty and Senior Fellow, Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality
Melissa Boteach, Vice President of the Poverty to Prosperity Program, Center for American Progress