Putting People Back to Work Must Be the Ultimate Goal
Additional benefit checks do little to ease unemployment because system is broken
December 9, 2011
If we are going to extend unemployment benefits for a 10th time, we should also finally take steps to reform and improve the Unemployment Insurance program, and we should pay for it (the first nine extensions have added $180 billion to our debt).
The problem with the current way things are done is that additional weeks of unemployment checks have done too little to help people get back to work. The proof is all around us. Despite the president's stimulus expansions--which produced a record 99 weeks of unemployment checks--the unemployment rate is well above 8 percent (a far cry from the 6.2 percent the president predicted). The unemployment rate has been above 8 percent for 34 straight months and it is past due that we implement changes to make the program more effective at returning the unemployed back to work.
House Republicans have and will continue to push for commonsense reforms of the unemployment program in five key ways:
- From the first week of state UI benefits to the last week of federal UI benefits, UI recipients should be expected to meet consistent work search criteria, which should include registering for employment services, posting resumes, and applying for work for which they are qualified.
- For those who are the least prepared to re-enter the workforce, we should help them improve their skills by working toward a GED or other recommended training.
- States should have the flexibility to try and get recipients back to work sooner by testing new approaches to re-employment, instead of just paying more weeks of UI checks.
- We must crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse in the program by implementing data standardization. Last year alone saw over $12 billion in overpayments.
- Just like we successfully did in welfare reform, we should give states greater flexibility to get people back to work, instead of just writing more checks.
These reforms are a way to extend the unemployment program in a responsible manner that will help people get back to work--which should be the ultimate goal of the unemployment benefits system.