In-Depth: Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) introduced this bill to give states more flexibility in administering existing unemployment benefits to help more Americans re-enter the workforce and find good-paying jobs:
“Few experiences are more difficult for working families than when someone loses a job, which is why I’m proud my bill will help move more Americans more quickly from unemployment to a good-paying job. We need more bridges to the middle class not more barriers. I’m glad to see this bill move one step closer to becoming law as it will provide much-needed relief to hardworking families and restore the dignity that comes with earning a paycheck for every worker.”
Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL), an original cosponsor of this bill, adds:
“With over seven million unfilled jobs in this country, opportunities abound. It’s important we empower individuals to get off the sidelines and back to work. Every week a parent spends out of the workforce, through no fault of their own, is a week too long. This bipartisan fix for reemployment services will help more workers shorten their benefit durations and get back to receiving what they want most, a paycheck.”
In opening remarks at this bill’s committee markup, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) said:
“Th[is] bill builds on legislation that was enacted last year to expand and improve access to reemployment services for workers who receive earned unemployment benefits while looking for new jobs. That legislation assisted workers and also saved taxpayers’ money. Representative Murphy’s bill makes a simple but very important change to the law to make it even more effective by allowing states to tailor their programs to help any recipient of unemployment benefits get back to work faster, rather than limiting these important supports to those who are expected to remain unemployed until their benefits run out.”
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the Ranking Member on the House Ways and Means Committee, also expressed his support for this bill at its full committee markup:
“With a record number of job openings, we need to do all we can to ensure we are getting those laid off through no fault of their own back into the workforce as quickly as possible. The Building on Reemployment Improvements to Deliver Good Employment for Workers Act - or BRIDGE for Workers Act - is an important step forward in those efforts. In this bipartisan legislation - led by Committee Members Jackie Walorski, Darin LaHood, and Stephanie Murphy - we are building on the reemployment services offered by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. It does so by making permanent a technical correction we first made in FY 2019 appropriations. Clarifying that states have the flexibility to provide reemployment services and eligibility assessments not just to those likely to exhaust their unemployment benefits, but to all those where these services could help speed reemployment. Increasing states' flexibility to determine who receives these services and when based on needs of their communities - instead of the needs of D.C. - is critical minimizing the disruption on their families. America needs these workers. Main Street needs these workers. Most importantly, children need to see their parents going to work - these reemployment services will help to make that happen sooner.”
However, while he supported this underlying bill, Rep. Brady expressed disappointment that Section 703 of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which makes permanent program changes with mandatory spending costs and mends the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, wouldn’t be considered during the markup.
The National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA), the nonpartisan association of the 50 workforce agencies of U.S. states and three territories, supports this bill. In a letter expressing support for this bill, NASWA’s Board President, Jon Pierpont, and Executive Director, Scott Sanders, wrote:
“Until the passage of the [Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018], the [Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments (RESEA) program] had been limited to a widely-successful pilot grant program. Today, States around the nation now have the ability to accelerate unemployment insurance (UI) claimants' transition back to employment faster than non-participants, which is particularly important in an economy desperately in need of skilled workers. To enhance these efforts, we are pleased to see the proposed minor statutory fix proposed in the BRIDGE for Workers Act that reflects your intent to ensure any UI claimant, not just those most likely to exhaust their benefits, are eligible for RESEA services and assessments. The current language in Section 306 of Act needs to be modified to ensure this intent is actualized and while the Appropriations Committee made such a modification in their FY 19 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill, a permanent fix would provide clarity and stability for states actively focused on helping claimants return to work expeditiously.”
This bill passed the House Committee on Ways and Means by a unanimous voice vote with the support of five bipartisan cosponsors, including three Democrats and two Republicans.
Of Note: The Dept. of Labor (DOL) gives annual grants to states and territories to help them provide a range of services to recipients of unemployment benefits and help them find work. These services include individual career counseling, job search assistance, and information on the local labor market. Under current law, states can only use these federal grants to assist workers who are expected to exhaust their unemployment benefits before they find work. This restriction prevents many unemployed workers from getting valuable assistance.
According to Rep. Murphy’s office, the CBO estimates that new investments in re-employment services over the next decade would reduce the budget deficit by $600 million from 2022-2027.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / annestahl)