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Republican bill would chop Federal Unemployment Insurance more than half

By Masao Suzuki |
December 14, 2011
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San José, CA - On Dec. 9, Republican Congressman Dave Camp of Michigan introduced a bill, H.R. 3630, that would cut federal extended unemployment insurance benefits from a maximum of 73 weeks to only 33 weeks. In addition, the bill allows for a number of new hoops for jobless workers to jump through in order to get unemployment insurance benefits, including mandatory drug testing.

Camp’s bill would eliminate Tier II of the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, which offers 14 weeks of benefits to jobless workers who have gone through their state benefits and Tier I of the EUC. There are over 800,000 jobless workers collecting Tier II EUC benefits. The bill would also cancel Tier IV of EUC, which is an additional 6 weeks of benefits for those in high-unemployment states. This would affect over 175,000 unemployed collecting Tier IV EUC benefits.

The federal Extended Benefits (EB) program, which provides up to 20 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits in states with high unemployment to those who have run out of EUC benefits, would be wound down. This would affect more than a half a million long-term unemployed on the EB program. All together more than a million and a half jobless workers would be affected if this bill were to become law.

The Republican proposal would hit jobless workers in the states with the highest unemployment rates the worst, as their total (federal and state) benefits would shrink from 99 weeks to a maximum of 59 weeks. The average length of stay on unemployment is at a record high (going back to 1948) at over 40 weeks. With eleven states having double-digit unemployment rates, and four unemployed looking for work for every job opening, this bill is cruel attack on those who are suffering the most from the depression that the country’s job market is in.

This bill adds insult to injury by opening the door to mandatory drug testing for those applying for unemployment insurance benefits. Rather than recognizing the lack of jobs is causing high unemployment, this suggests that the reason people are collecting unemployment insurance is to be able to feed their drug habit while not working. HR 3630 also requires people who didn’t graduate from high school to enroll in a G.E.D. program, at a time when adult education is being cut back across the country.

Even worse, the Republican bill would allow some states to divert moneys for unemployment insurance benefits to other programs. It would also allow states to reduce benefits for their jobless workers. With less than three weeks to go before funding for federal EUC and EB ends, this is no time for the Republicans in Congress to be trying to ram through cuts in unemployment insurance.

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