Aug 21 | August Updates
Updated: Sep 4, 2021
26 states have threatened or ended federal pandemic UI benefits early. Some states have started lawsuits to fight back against these states and a few have even had benefits reinstated. NELP is tracking lawsuits here, we have some updates on these lawsuits here, and we announce new movements on our twitter. NELP is likely the most up to date resource!
For the remaining states that haven't been cut off, all programs (PEUC, PUA, and FPUC) end September 6th. That's too early.
On Thursday, August 19, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh sent a letter to Congress on behalf of the Biden White House with two main objectives:
President Biden does not intend to extend federal pandemic UI programs and will let them expire on September 6th. However he is allowing states to use funds allotted to them in the American Rescue Plan to extend programs on a state by state basis. This is NOT a guarantee of any program extensions, but it is an option (and potential funding) for states to extend the programs themselves.
They also encouraged Congress to include a plan for long term UI reform in the upcoming reconciliation package.
ExtendPUA.org's Official Statement on this letter and the Sept 6th cliff:
"We are thrilled to see the Biden administration encourage Congress to incorporate a plan for UI reform in. the upcoming reconciliation package. We are also glad to see the administration acknowledge that workers are still struggling and will be affected by the September 6th cut offs, but we find the action taken by the White House on this issue to be weak. Allowing states to use ARP funds to extend UI is a move in the right direction, but, as has been proven throughout the pandemic, putting the option of benefit extension in the hands of the states spells disaster for workers. 26 states already ended the necessary programs preemptively. When the LWA passed in 2020 with an additional $100 optional for the states to contribute, only THREE states opted to pay that boost. Not to mention the fact that unjust and inequitable state UI systems are what got us into this mess in the first place.
We are glad to see some movement by the White House on the impending cliff, but find their action to be incredibly inadequate. We are still in a national state of emergency. How can the President endorse ending pandemic UI programs when he had not ended the national state of emergency? Especially when it has been proven that the programs do not disincentive work and ending programs raised worker panic, not employment in the states that ended programs early. The delta surge is causing renewed indoor restrictions, event and show cancellations, and hesitancy about the safety of in person school and work. In July of 2020, Congress failed to extend the critical FPUC program. What happened? 8 MILLION people were shoved into poverty. Now it looks like Congress may let ALL programs expire before everyone has had a chance to recover. Are they expecting a different result?
Pandemic UI programs should continue (and be reinstated in all states) until the pandemic is over. The end of the pandemic for workers will be marked by the recovery of all pre-pandemic jobs (we are still short 5.7 million jobs from February 2020) AND an unemployment rate comparable to February 2020. The current unemployment rate of 5.4% is misleading and leaves out millions of workers. The actual unemployment rate is 8.1%. That is not a rate that indicates we have a recovered American workforce.
Pandemic UI programs need to be extended based on these automatic stabilizers. Additionally the system needs to be permanently reformed so we stop facing arbitrary cliffs in a historic recession. Permanent reform should federalize UI completely or set stronger federal standards of higher and more equitable wage replacement rates, more inclusive and easier access to programs, and automatic stabilizers to raise benefits and allotted weeks during recessions."
-Stephanie Freed, Executive Director, ExtendPUA.org
ExtendPUA.org will continue to track states reactions to this new guidance. We encourage you to reach out to your US legislators and encourage them to extend programs despite the guidance from the White House. Scripts and numbers are at ExtendPUA.org/call.
You can also reach out to your state legislators about this new guidance and ask them to use your state's ARP funds to extend programs. It seems likely it will be left in their hands.