Unemployment Insurance (UI) is a joint federal-state program designed to provide temporary income support to workers who have a demonstrated attachment to the labor force and lose their jobs due to a lay-off or for other economic reasons, or who must leave their jobs through no fault of their own. (See the box on page 2 for an overview of the UI system.) Unfortunately, the UI system is not performing as well as it should in meeting this goal. Many workers who lose their jobs — especially low-income and part-time workers — end up not receiving any unemployment benefits; many others exhaust their benefits before finding a new job.
The need to modernize UI has been evident for some time, and many states have made progress reforming their UI laws over the past decade or so. It is time for the federal government to lend its support and encouragement to these efforts, and such reform may be on the Congressional agenda this year.