Center for American Progress

RELEASE: What States Can Do to Provide Greater Unemployment Protections
Press Release

RELEASE: What States Can Do to Provide Greater Unemployment Protections

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Washington, D.C. — The Center for American Progress, the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, and the National Employment Law Project published a new issue brief today that looks at what states can do to strengthen unemployment protections for their populations. Also included is a new analysis of all 50 states and the District of Columbia that compares each state’s unemployment insurance, or UI, recipients with its broader population of unemployed workers. It includes data breakdowns by gender, educational attainment, race/ethnicity, and age.

“UI was a vital tool for both family economic security and national economic stability during the Great Recession and continues to help working families get back on their feet,” said Rachel West, an Associate Director for the Poverty to Prosperity Program at CAP. “By adopting reforms to strengthen UI, states would ensure a significantly more robust system of assistance for unemployed workers and their families, raise labor force participation, and benefit economically from much greater protection when the next recession arrives.”

The policy recommendations in the issue brief are a follow-up to a recent proposal from CAP, GCPI, and NELP on what policymakers can do to strengthen UI programs. States have tremendous flexibility over changes to their UI programs, particularly in the areas of program eligibility, benefit adequacy, and financing. So while the CAP, GCPI, and NELP report calls on the federal government to play a broader, more assertive role—both in setting stronger minimum standards and in providing more resources to states—states need not wait for congressional action to enact key reforms to UI.

EVENT ALERT: On Monday, July 11, at 10:00 a.m. ET, Jason Furman—chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers—and Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) will be the featured speakers at a CAP event on strengthening unemployment protections in America. RSVP to attend or watch the live stream here.

The issue brief identifies the main challenges facing states’ UI programs; provides recent state-level data on UI eligibility rules, recipiency rates, benefit adequacy, and program solvency; and recommends steps that states can take to substantially strengthen their UI programs. It includes recommendations that would:

  • Ensure that more unemployed workers have access to re-employment assistance and training and reduce layoffs
  • Provide more Americans with enhanced protection against the shock of unemployment
  • Prepare the unemployment insurance system for the next recession

“Even in the midst of partisan gridlock, state lawmakers should not risk waiting for congressional action before taking steps to modernize their UI programs. They can enact many meaningful changes that will help unemployed people living in their states,” said Claire McKenna, Senior Policy Analyst at NELP.

DATA: Characteristics of UI recipients compared with all unemployed workers by state, 2006–2015

See all state data beginning on page 14 of the issue brief.





Read the full issue brief—“Where States Are and Where They Should Be on Unemployment Protections” by Rachel West, Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Kali Grant, Melissa Boteach, Claire McKenna, and Judy Conti—online here.

Related resources:

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Liz Bartolomeo at [email protected] or 202.481.8151.