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Brady Takes Action to Empower States, Strengthen Unemployment Insurance System

February 08, 2017

In 2012, Congress passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, bipartisan legislation to improve the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system and help more unemployed Americans successfully return to the workforce. 

The law included a number of commonsense reforms to help ensure people receiving unemployment insurance benefits are “able, available, and actively seeking work,” including allowing states to drug screen and test UI applicants if they:  

  1. Lost their job due to drug use, or
  2. Were seeking a new job that regularly required new employees to pass a drug test.

In keeping with the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed regulatory approach, four years after this policy was signed into law, DOL issued a final rule that severely limited the ability of states to implement this important policy by narrowly defining the occupations that could be subject to drug screening and testing.

As UWC – Strategic Services on Unemployment & Workers’ Compensation, which represents business associations and employers of all sizes, explained:

“The regulations as posted in final form are inconsistent with the intent of Congress in enacting the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 and unduly restrict state agencies choosing to test applicants for the use of controlled substances.” 

Similarly, the Secretaries Innovation Group, which represents state secretaries who oversee many unemployment and welfare programs, wrote:

“By far the most common stated requirements are requests for individuals who are reliable and can pass a drug test. Therefore it is highly important that states to have the ability and authority to operate drug screening and testing … States do not have the ability to operate this way under the current restrictive regulation promulgated by the Department of Labor.” 

And as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said:

“The public interest would be served by a broader interpretation of ‘regularly conducted drug testing’ – one that is not limited to those occupations identified in the proposed regulations … There are many occupations which include equipment operators, agricultural workers, and many manufacturing workers, where impaired employees pose a significant risk of injury to themselves, their coworkers, and the general public and are a liability risk for employers. In order to be ‘job ready,’ unemployment compensation applicants must be drug-free.” 

Fortunately, the House has the authority through the Congressional Review Act to reverse the Obama Administration’s harmful actions. In the days ahead, the House will consider a resolution (H. J. Res 42)— introduced by Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX)—to repeal the regulation so states can move forward with implementing the law. 

As Chairman Brady said:

“In 2012, Congress fulfilled its responsibility to strengthen the unemployment insurance program, passing bipartisan legislation that empowers our states and local job creators and helps more Americans get back to work. Unfortunately, for the next four years, the Obama Administration failed to do its part to ensure this vital program’s success—finalizing a backwards rule that contradicts congressional intent, oversteps executive authority, and undercuts a state’s ability to implement the law. That’s why I introduced a resolution to remove the Administration’s roadblocks, so we can ensure the people claiming unemployment benefits are truly ready and able to work.” 

CLICK HERE to learn more about how the resolution will improve the UI system to help states, job creators, and people looking for work.