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Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means, today announced that the Subcommittee will hold a hearing on preventing the payment of unemployment benefits to incarcerated individuals and other ways to improve the integrity of the Unemployment Insurance program. The hearing will take place at 1:15 pm on Wednesday, September 11, 2013, in Room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building.
In view of the limited time available to hear from witnesses, oral testimony at this hearing will be from invited witnesses only. Witnesses will include public and private sector unemployment insurance experts. However, any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Committee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing.
The Federal-State Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, created by the Social Security Act of 1935, assists unemployed individuals by offering weekly unemployment benefit checks while they search for work. According to the Department of Labor (DOL), in order to be eligible for benefits, jobless workers must have a history of attachment to the workforce and must be able and available for work.
As a result of a series of laws enacted since June 2008 to provide additional Federal extended benefits, the maximum number of weeks of total unemployment benefits payable per person grew to a record 99 weeks, including up to 73 weeks of Federally-funded benefits. More recently, the maximum number of Federally-funded unemployment benefits paid in any state has declined to 47 weeks. Since mid-2008, $275 billion in Federal extended and other unemployment benefit payments have been authorized, with most supported by Federal general revenues.
As the number of weeks of unemployment benefits and total spending grew, so did total payments made in error. According to DOL, over the last five years, the UI program has made $58 billion in improper payments with an error rate consistently above 10% for both State and Federal UI payments. During the same period, employer taxes have also increased significantly, nearly doubling since the recession began, and 18 States are still repaying Federal loans. Progress toward improving UI trust fund solvency and preventing further payroll tax hikes should be made by ensuring correct payments are made to the correct individuals, reducing improper payments. Recent news articles in a number of states suggest millions of dollars in UI benefit payments have been wrongly paid to individuals who are not able and available to work because they are behind bars.
Congress included several efforts to improve UI program integrity through Public Law 112-40, which increases penalties on individuals who commit fraud in collecting UI benefits, and Public Law 112-96, The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, which requires States to recover prior overpayments from current UI benefits. Additionally, the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-291) expanded the authority to collect UI overpayments from federal tax refunds. As the UI benefit rolls return to their pre-recession levels, the 113th Congress looks to continue this important progress. On July 25, 2013, Chairman Reichert took the first step by introducing H.R. 2826, the Permanently Ending Receipt by Prisoners Act, also known as the PERP Act, to formally prevent incarcerated individuals from receiving UI benefits.
In announcing the hearing, Chairman Reichert stated, “Unemployment benefits are meant to provide needed assistance to individuals who have fallen on hard times, but who are able and trying to find work so they can provide for themselves and their families. In the case of incarcerated individuals, it is an injustice that the tax dollars of law-abiding citizens are being used to provide assistance to people who have broken the law and simply should not qualify for these benefits. We must make it very clear that unemployment benefits should go only to those who are eligible.”
FOCUS OF THE HEARING:
The hearing will review possible measures to improve the program integrity of the UI program, including H.R. 2826, the Permanently Ending Receipt by Prisoners (PERP) Act.
DETAILS FOR SUBMISSION OF WRITTEN COMMENTS:
Please Note: Any person(s) and/or organization(s) wishing to submit for the hearing record must follow the appropriate link on the hearing page of the Committee website and complete the informational forms. From the Committee homepage, http://waysandmeans.house.gov, select “Hearings.” Select the hearing for which you would like to submit, and click on the link entitled, “Please click here to submit a statement or letter for the record.” Once you have followed the online instructions, submit all requested information. Attach your submission as a Word document, in compliance with the formatting requirements listed below, by September 25, 2013. Finally, please note that due to the change in House mail policy, the U.S. Capitol Police will refuse sealed-package deliveries to all House Office Buildings. For questions, or if you encounter technical problems, please call (202) 225-1721 or (202) 225-3625.
The Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record. As always, submissions will be included in the record according to the discretion of the Committee. The Committee will not alter the content of your submission, but we reserve the right to format it according to our guidelines. Any submission provided to the Committee by a witness, any supplementary materials submitted for the printed record, and any written comments in response to a request for written comments must conform to the guidelines listed below. Any submission or supplementary item not in compliance with these guidelines will not be printed, but will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.
- All submissions and supplementary materials must be provided in Word format and MUST NOT exceed a total of 10 pages, including attachments. Witnesses and submitters are advised that the Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record.
- Copies of whole documents submitted as exhibit material will not be accepted for printing. Instead, exhibit material should be referenced and quoted or paraphrased. All exhibit material not meeting these specifications will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.
- All submissions must include a list of all clients, persons, and/or organizations on whose behalf the witness appears. A supplemental sheet must accompany each submission listing the name, company, address, telephone, and fax numbers of each witness.
The Committee seeks to make its facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. If you are in need of special accommodations, please call 202-225-1721 or 202-226-3411 TTD/TTY in advance of the event (four business days notice is requested). Questions with regard to special accommodation needs in general (including availability of Committee materials in alternative formats) may be directed to the Committee as noted above.
Note: All Committee advisories and news releases are available online at http://www.waysandmeans.house.gov/.