A mention of permanent reform to the unemployment system made it into the White House's American Families Plan! Unlike the American Rescue Plan, the language for the American Families Plan is vague so there is a lot of room for us to fill in the details and add more measures by advocating to Congress as they build the actual bill. We are excited to see President Biden and the White House team acknowledging the desperate need for this reform. This is undoubtedly due to the work of advocates like yourself and our allies in Congress and their incredible staff, especially Senator Wyden. Read a recent interview with him about his plan to fix UI here. The work here, though, is far from over.
Here is the language on UI from the American Families Plan.
The unemployment insurance (UI) system is a critical lifeline to workers at the hardest times. During the pandemic, it saved millions from poverty and helped people put food on the table. But, the system is in desperate need of reform and strengthening. Too often Americans found themselves waiting weeks to get the benefits they deserved. Too often the benefits Americans would automatically receive would’ve been too low and would not have gone long enough absent Congress stepping in. Too often the safeguards to prevent fraud in the system have been insufficient. And it has been unemployed people of color who have borne the brunt of the UI system’s weaknesses. President Biden is committed to strengthening and reforming the system for the long term. That’s why he won $2 billion in the American Rescue Plan to put toward UI system modernization, equitable access, and fraud prevention. And, that’s why he wants to work with Congress to automatically adjust the length and amount of UI benefits unemployed workers receive depending on economic conditions. This will ensure future legislative delay doesn’t undermine economic recovery and it will enable permanent reform of the system to provide the safety net that workers deserve in the hardest times.
You can read the fact sheet on the full American Families Plan with other provisions on child care, tax credits, paid leave, education, and more here. There is also a separate fact sheet for the American Jobs Plan.
A reminder that bears repeating - the current Wyden/Bennet proposal for Fixing UI will likely serve as a base for the reform included in the American Families Plan. That plan, as currently written, may not be fully implemented until 2023 so, while it is essential work, we will still need support through this pandemic included in upcoming legislation. Congress must provide relief throughout the duration of this crisis and long term reform. We cannot shift our focus entirely to reform.
Relief priorities for the unemployed and underemployed include:
Benefits extended (with additional weeks for all programs including PUC) past September. They should be extended via automatic stabilizers, but if not, they should at least be extended through the end of the year. Our economy and job market are not on track to recover by September 6th. We need these benefits extended in July to avoid panic and lapses.
Tax relief on unemployment for 2020 & 2021.
A refundable tax credit for all of those who were unemployed in the fall of 2020 to compensate for the lack of FPUC and combat the massive debt long term pandemic unemployed workers are in.
Health insurance subsidies, discounts, and open enrollment extended past September.
Job training and placement programs.
Are we missing something on this relief list? Join the conversation and let us know what you need here.
None of this happens without YOU.
Keep an eye out for more on the relief and reform conversations by following us on Twitter @ExtendPUA or by subscribing to our mailing list.