Stimulus Would Alter Depression-Era Unemployment Benefit System
The stimulus legislation would revamp the 74-year-old U.S. unemployment compensation program by encouraging states to give benefits to those who quit their jobs to care for ailing relatives.
The provision, sponsored by Representative Jim McDermott, is in the $789 billion compromise reached by House and Senate negotiators. Critics say the change would undermine the original intent of the Depression-era program as a cushion only for people whose jobs disappear.
“It’s fundamentally at odds with the basic tenets of unemployment insurance: temporary cash payments for people who lose their job though no fault of their own,” said Douglas Holmes, president of UWC-Strategic Services on Unemployment and Workers Compensation, a Washington-based group that represents employers. “Unemployment insurance is not public assistance, it’s not a family support program, it’s not food stamps.”
House and Senate votes approving the bill and sending it to President Barack Obama for signature could come as early as today.
The provision is part of a broader effort to update the jobless program. Unemployment in the U.S. climbed to 7.6 percent in January, the highest level since 1992. Obama has said the economic stimulus bill will help create as many as 4 million jobs.