Amid Unprecedented Jobless Claims, Ways and Means Democrats Fight to Provide Relief for Workers

Mar 26, 2020
Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC – This morning, the Department of Labor released devastating new numbers revealing that 3.28 million people in America filed unemployment claims in the past week. States’ understaffed unemployment offices and antiquated systems are under an unprecedented strain with the sudden surge of new applicants. Ways and Means Democrats anticipated a dramatic increase in jobless numbers due to the coronavirus crisis, and have taken action over the past weeks to bolster unemployment insurance offices and provide out-of-work Americans with expanded benefits.
“This public health crisis is having extreme economic consequences, and millions of American workers need substantial, immediate relief,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA). “Many states use antiquated systems and have limited staff, and some have even reduced benefits and access to unemployment benefits in recent years. They are not prepared to handle these new, monumental demands. The Ways and Means Committee has made supporting these offices and enhancing benefits for newly-unemployed workers a central focus of our response to the coronavirus crisis. We’ve insisted on and succeeded in providing states with substantial new resources to process claims and administer benefits, while also requiring that they ensure workers can access the compensation they need. And despite resistance on the other side of the aisle, we secured additional funding to ensure unemployment compensation fully replaces lost wages for the average American worker. As this crisis evolves, Ways and Means Democrats will keep fighting to support families who have lost their income and strengthen our nations’ unemployment insurance systems.”

In the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Ways and Means Democrats:
  • Provided states with $1 billion in federal funding for claims processing and administrative costs.
  • Provided federal flexibility to waive work search requirements that conflict with public health directives.
  • Required states to provide full access to benefits for eligible workers.
In the CARES Act, Ways and Means Democrats secured: 
  • An additional $600 per week for the next four months for any worker affected by COVID-19 and eligible for state or federal unemployment compensation benefits.
  • 13 weeks of additional unemployment compensation benefits for those who need them, in all states.
  • Expanded unemployment compensation eligibility to cover self-employed and “gig economy” workers, as well as individuals who couldn’t start work due to COVID-19.
  • Assistance for nonprofits, tribal governments, and state and local governments that pay the cost of unemployment compensation benefits for their employees.
  • Full federal funding for Short-term Compensation Programs, which allow struggling employers to enter into agreements with state UC programs to reduce employee hours and have them collect partial UC for the lost hours.
Additional information regarding Ways and Means unemployment compensation provisions and answers to frequently asked questions are available HERE.