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99ers and the American Jobs Act

September 15, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The American Jobs Act doesn’t propose an extension for 99ers, the millions of people who have been out of work so long that they are no longer eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. But it does include several provisions that are designed to help them in other ways.

  • Enhanced reemployment services — Under the bill, states would be able to apply for federal funds to use for creating new job counseling programs for people who are receiving unemployment benefits. It would allow states to provide the programs to 99ers. The services would include things like help in assessing alternative career paths and improving communication/interview skills.
  • Pathways back to work — All states applying for money to use for subsidized employment programs would have to, at a minimum, describe how they would target assistance to 99ers.
  • Workplace retraining programs — Entities applying for grants to set up on-the-job retraining for unemployed workers “may” include include in their applications criteria they will use to target assistance to 99ers. The federal agency in charge of distributing the funds would not be required to base their decision on how applicants will help 99ers, but they would have the ability to make it a priority if they if they want to.
  • Ban on hiring discrimination against the unemployed — The bill would make it illegal for employers or employment agencies to consider unemployment status in making hiring decisions, block unemployed people from accessing information about available job positions, or publish in job ads that unemployed people can not apply.

Obviously, none of this is a substitute for additional weeks of unemployment insurance for 99ers, as proposed in H.R.589. Unemployment insurance provides a critical lifeline for those who have been hardest hit by the jobs crisis, and it is the single most stimulative form of government spending there is. But these are things that have the potential to do something even better for the 99ers, they could lead to secure jobs and reliable sources of income for months or years to come.

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