Congress Should Continue Emergency UI, Forget Phony Reforms

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Leslie Helmcamp /(512) 320-0222

January 29, 2012

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Unemployment insurance (UI) is a critical piece of ensuring financial stability for families and economic recovery for communities during times of high joblessness. Over the next several days, Congress will debate whether to continue emergency unemployment insurance benefits through 2012 as well as various changes to the program. Even as the unemployment rate continues to improve, it will take several years of strong job growth to return to pre-recession employment levels. There are too few jobs available for the number of job seekers, with more than four workers per job opening. Since the federal UI extensions began in Texas in 2008, Texans have made more than two million federal unemployment claims, totaling well over $9 billion. These dollars have protected families and generated demand for goods and services, helping maintain jobs. Cutting off UI abruptly will devastate families and undermine communities. Emergency UI will automatically phase out as the economy improves and the unemployment rate drops. In the meantime, Congress should continue UI through 2012 and reject phony reforms proposed in the House that would allow states to lower benefit amounts, use UI revenues for other programs, and deny UI to workers.