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W&M Members Look for Opportunities to Strengthen Unemployment Insurance, Help More Americans Get Back to Work

September 07, 2016

Today, the Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), held a hearing about what states are doing to improve their Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs and help more Americans return to the workforce. Members heard from state officials and job creators about innovative approaches to strengthening UI to serve the unemployed today and in the future.

As Chairman Buchanan said at the start of the hearing:

“Helping the unemployed return to work as quickly as possible and preventing improper payments within the system will better serve employers who fund the system to keep taxes low, as well as workers who claim benefits by getting them back to work sooner … States are eager to do more to help the unemployed return to work quickly for the sake of workers and job creators.” 

Witnesses emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships and attracting new businesses to their states to create more jobs and opportunities in their communities. They also discussed the need for flexibility at the state and local level.

As Walter Carpenter, a small business owner in Florida who has contributed to the UI trust fund for over forty years, explained:

I do not believe a federal one size fits all approach when it comes to the trust fund is a proper way to achieve creative solutions … I see this as a public-private partnership where the businesses are providing the revenue to support the trust funds and each individual state maintaining the integrity of their state systems.”

Recognizing his home state’s impressive work to reduce unemployment, Chairman Buchanan asked Cissy Proctor, the Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, to explain what actions are behind Florida’s success. She answered:

“Since Governor Scott took office, the focus really has been on getting every Floridian back to work. We know that every job is important and we know that if we support the private sector industry in our state and make sure that taxes are low and regulation is low, then there is going to be more job creation … and the economic impact of that is always felt at the local level.”

When Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL) asked witnesses what states are doing to connect unemployed Americans looking for jobs with local job creators looking for employees, Ms. Proctor continued:

“On one side, we have the reemployment assistance program … so we have a whole system and network of career centers and state colleges and universities and private industries and charities that are working very hard in Florida to help people get back to work. And on the other end we work with the business community … to make sure we understand what the business needs are in our state and we can marry up the business needs with those needs of folks who are looking for a job and may need extra training. And we also recognize that in the middle are communities … to support the businesses and support a strong economic climate so that everyone who wants a job can get back to work.”

Michelle Beebe, the Unemployment Insurance Director for the Utah Department of Workforce Serves, explained what her state is doing to get more Americans back to work with local businesses: 

“We have workforce development specialists that are located around the State of Utah whose sole job is to engage the employer community and making that match between job seeker and employer. Finding a job in the tech industry in Utah County is going to be a very different experience than finding a job in the oil and gas industry in Duchesne County. That local approach is important.”

Chairman Buchanan concluded the hearing by encouraging all states to focus on local businesses to spur job creation, reduce unemployment, and grow the economy.

CLICK HERE to learn more about today’s hearing.