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Congressman Dan Kildee Introduces Bill to Expand Unemployment Insurance Benefits

May 1, 2020
Press Release
Bill Builds Upon Unemployment Insurance Provisions in the CARES Act

Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus and Member of the Ways and Means Committee, today introduced new legislation to expand unemployment insurance for American workers.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, already passed by Congress, significantly extended unemployment insurance (UI) by 13 weeks and included a four-month, $600 increase in benefits known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) through July 2020. Despite these expanded benefits, there are still gaps in coverage for those who are willing and able to work, but who are unable to maintain employment due to the global public health crisis.

  Congressman Kildee’s legislation, the Strengthening UI for Coronavirus Impacted Workers and Students Act, would expand upon the CARES Act by:

  • Exempting UI benefits from income for all means-tested programs;
  • Making the FPUC available as far back as coronavirus pandemic disaster declaration date;
  • Extending the FPUC through December 31, 2020;
  • Providing the FPUC to individuals with reduced hours;
  • Creating $300 federal benefit for recent college graduates and students; and, 
  • Extending 100% federal financing of UI Extended Benefits.

“As we address the impacts of the coronavirus on our economy, it is important to ensure we have a strong unemployment system to protect workers and their families,” Congressman Kildee said. “The expanded unemployment benefits, as a part of the CARES Act, was a first good step. But we must build upon this legislation to make sure that workers and families are not falling through the cracks. I know this is an incredibly difficult time for Michiganders and I am working to ensure families can financially stay afloat during this pandemic.”

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) will be introducing the companion measure in the U.S. Senate. Congressman Kildee’s legislation was also introduced with the support of 53 other Members of Congress. The legislation is also supported by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Center for Disability Rights, Disability Rights New York, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Education Association (NEA), National Employment Law Project (NELP), National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), The Arc, United Auto Workers (UAW), Young Invincibles (YI), American Physical Therapy Association, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Center for Public Representation, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, Easterseals, Epilepsy Foundation, Institute for Education Leadership, Justice in Aging, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, National Association of State Head Injury Administrators, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, National Disability Rights Network, National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, National Women’s Law Center, RespectAbility, Social Security Works and the United Spinal Association. 

“In this midst of a pandemic and unprecedented economic upheaval, this legislation would help extend unemployment insurance and maintain economic stability for individuals, families, and communities,” said Senator Reed.  “Nobody is living it up on $600 per week, but that sum could make a life-saving difference for thousands of Americans.  It is appalling that some lawmakers want to try to financially pressure Americans into choosing between their health and destitution.  COVID-19 doesn’t care about the calendar or political time tables.  We have to be smart and this targeted, temporary measure will help ensure Americans who are out of work through no fault of their own can afford food, housing, and medicine until it is safe to go back to work.”

“In this moment of crisis, adults and children with disabilities and their families are relying on the unemployment and other elements of social safety net more than ever—it’s crucially important that they don’t lose SNAP benefits or have SSI benefits reduced because they have lost their jobs. We thank Congressman Kildee for recognizing this gap in the CARES Act and introducing legislation to fix it,” said Bethany Lilly, Director of Income Policy at The Arc.

“Congress must take every step to prevent housing instability and homelessness as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Individuals who have lost their jobs or lost wages due to coronavirus should not be forced to choose between unemployment insurance and the housing assistance they rely on to keep roofs over their heads,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Ensuring that low-income workers are not penalized for receiving unemployment insurance helps avoid exacerbating the country’s affordable rental housing and homelessness crisis.”

“The dual public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has put a spotlight on the need for Washington, D.C. to reform policies that often ignore the realities working families face every day. The UAW strongly supports Congressman Dan Kildee’s legislation that provides a lifeline for workers who have lost their job or had to reduce their hours.  For example, it would ensure that UI benefits are not counted against working families who also need SNAP and other supports during these difficult times,” said UAW President Rory L. Gamble.

More information on the Strengthening UI for Coronavirus Impacted Workers and Students Act is below.

  • Exempts UI Benefits from Income for All Means-Tested Programs

Under the CARES Act, UI benefits are not counted as income to determine eligibility for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). However, these UI benefits could impact an individual’s eligibility for other means-tested programs such as federally assisted housing benefits (Section 8), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This bill would exempt Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefits from affecting eligibility for all means-tested programs.

  • Makes $600 Federal Benefit Available as Far Back as Disaster Declaration Date

The $600 per week federal benefit established through the CARES Act is available to individuals beginning on the date their state entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to enroll in the federal program. This bill would make the $600 per week benefit accessible to those who lost their job as far back as the date the President declared a national emergency, March 13, 2020.

  • Extends $600 Federal Benefits through December 31, 2020 with a “Soft Cutoff”

Under the CARES Act, the $600 per week federal benefit is available through July 31, 2020. This means that depending on when an individual applies for UI, they may not be able to collect their benefits for the full length of time they are eligible. In Michigan, that is up to 39 weeks (26 weeks of state eligibility plus the federal 13-week extension). This bill would allow the $600 federal benefit to run through December 31, 2020, with a “soft cutoff,” so that people who were getting benefits as of December 31 could finish receiving their full benefits, as long as those benefits end by June 30, 2021.

  • Provides $600 Federal Benefit to Individuals with Reduced Hours

Short-Time Compensation or “work-sharing” programs allow employers to voluntarily make an agreement with the state unemployment office to prevent layoffs by reducing employee hours. Workers with reduced hours whose employers establish work-sharing programs are eligible for partial state UI benefits. This bill would codify into law the current DOL guidance to provide a $600 per week federal benefit to individuals in work sharing UI programs.

  • Creates $300 Federal Benefit for Recent Graduates and Students

This bill would create a $300 per week federal benefit to individuals willing and able to work absent COVID-19, but who do not have recent attachment to the labor force. This will encompass students and recent graduates without the necessary work experience to demonstrate recent attachment to the labor force who cannot find employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Extends 100% Federal Financing of UI Extended Benefits

 Extended Benefits (EB) are available to workers who exhaust regular unemployment insurance during periods of high unemployment. This is a benefit in permanent law that is triggered when a state exceeds a particular unemployment rate or measure of the number of UI recipients. Normally, EB is administered through a 50/50 cost share between the state and federal governments. The Families First Coronavirus Act provided full federal financing (100%) through December 31, 2020. This bill extends the full federal financing of EB through June 30, 2021, to relieve the financial burden on states due to coronavirus.

This legislation builds on Congressman Kildee’s efforts to provide unemployment insurance for workers who are impacted by economic crises. In 2014, he introduced the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014, which would continue unemployment benefits for workers impacted by the Great Recession.

Congressman Kildee’s office is here to help Michiganders take full advantage of the emergency support available. For any constituents with questions, comments, or concerns, including about their unemployment eligibility, please contact (810) 238-8627.