Bennet Unveils Sweeping Proposal to Strengthen Unemployment Insurance Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet unveiled a sweeping proposal to strengthen and modernize unemployment insurance (UI) so that it better supports Americans with targeted, timely, and comprehensive assistance when the economy deteriorates. 

“Today, our system of unemployment insurance has failed to adapt to our changing economy and leaves far too many workers behind,” said Bennet. “My plan broadens eligibility for unemployment benefits, increases benefits for those who’d received far less than they deserve, and extends benefits when the economy is weak and jobs are hardest to find. As the coronavirus pandemic forces millions of Americans out of work, we must act urgently to protect workers and families in the difficult months ahead.” 

Over the past several months, Bennet developed a series of proposals to automatically expand economic support when the economy deteriorates. These so-called “automatic stabilizers” would automatically ramp up when unemployment rises to help prevent recessions in the first place, or, when recessions are unavoidable, to mitigate their damage to workers and families. Bennet developed the legislation in close consultation with a wide range of experts on economic and fiscal policy, unemployment, and support for vulnerable populations. These discussions helped inform the negotiations over unemployment benefits in the third COVID-19 economic package. Were Bennet’s proposal in effect today, thousands of Americans who have lost their jobs or seen their wages reduced due to the pandemic would be receiving increased economic support.

Bennet’s plan to reform UI will:

  1. Expand eligibility for regular UI and standardize the benefit amount individuals receive across states; and
  1. Help stabilize the economy by providing automatic and extended UI benefits at the first sign of economic deterioration. 

A detailed description of the plan is available HERE. Official legislative text will be available soon. 

Not all of the proposals contemplated would be immediately feasible, given the limited capacity of states to implement new reforms during the pandemic. Bennet introduced the plan to offer bold reforms for Congress to consider as it grapples with how to modernize UI as we contend with the ongoing economic crisis today and those yet to come. 

Bennet also supports proposals to establish a Jobseeker’s Allowance, to reform UI workshare programs, and to eliminate waiting week periods as essential components of a comprehensive reform package.  

Last week, Bennet unveiled a bold new proposal to help Americans weather the economic fallout of the outbreak by providing direct cash payments. More on Bennet’s direct payment plan is available HERE.