Unemployment Insurance is a cornerstone of economic security and the first line of defense when jobs disappear, preventing families from falling into poverty, and infusing spending into the local economies hardest hit by unemployment. This safety net has never been more important than right now as Congress debates new measures to stimulate the economy: we have lost more than a million jobs since January, and the unemployment rate is likely heading to levels not seen since the serious recession of the early 1980s. But UI is falling behind its potential. Of special significance: many unemployed workers, especially lower income workers, never qualify for benefits; and limited extended benefits don’t protect people from longer spells of unemployment in a difficult job market.
With economic recovery strategies at the top of the agenda for Congress and both the outgoing and incoming administrations, labor commissioners from Maine and New York and policy experts will discuss measures to strengthen the Unemployment Insurance program to help prevent a deep and prolonged recession and increased poverty.