Tell Our Senators to Reject Education Requirements for UI Benefits

On December 13, the House of Representative voted to impose new minimum education requirements on unemployment insurance (UI) recipients. This legislation (HR 3630) would for the first time establish minimum educational requirements for recipients of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. If enacted, this proposal would limit access to UI benefits for hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Americans.

At the same time, the House has proposed significant cuts to federal job training and education programs as part of their draft Fiscal Year 2012 Labor-HHS-Education bill–the very programs they’re demanding that low-skilled workers enroll in as a condition of receiving their benefits.

While all workers—including UI recipients—should have access to training, Skills2Compete MA adamantly opposes mandating training as a requirement for receiving UI benefits. Please take a minute today and tell our Senators to reject this legislation.

Under the “Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011,” (HR 3630) the House would require that any individual seeking UI benefits have at least a high school diploma or recognized equivalent, or be enrolled and making satisfactory progress in classes leading to such a credential.  An estimated 284,000 unemployed workers could be impacted by this requirement in just the first three months, with applicants required to either enroll in adult education and training, or forego the benefits they need to support their families. However, it is far from clear that states and localities have the capacity to address this sharp increase in training enrollments.  As you know, MA currently has a substantial waiting list for adult basic education (ABE) programs.
Federal funding for adult education has declined by more than 20 percent over the last decade, while funding for job training has seen even steeper losses–including $1 billion in cuts to training programs under the FY2011 continuing resolution.  The House has proposed an additional $2.4 billion in cuts to programs under the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration–including a more than 90 percent cut to FY2012 funding for dislocated worker training (those workers most likely to receive UI).  It seems incredibly cynical to require participation in adult education and job training as a condition of receiving UI benefits while simultaneously eliminating meaningful federal support for these programs.

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