National Coalition for Literacy Issues Action Alert on H.R. 3630

(updated below)

Update on my post from this past Saturday on H.R. 3630, (“The Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act of 2011″), a Republican-sponsored House bill that, among other things, denies UI benefits to individuals who lack a high school diploma unless they are enrolled in classes that will lead to a GED or another “state-recognized equivalent.”

First, and most importantly, the National Coalition for Literacy (NCL) has issued an Action Alert for those of you interested in contacting your member of the House of Representative about this bill. The vote is scheduled for tonight, so if you want to do so, there isn’t much time. While there is very little chance that this bill would pass in the Senate, it’s still important to raise objections if  you are concerned about this bill’s approach to extending UI. Some kind of UI extension is going to pass this week, and while I have no reason to expect this high school/GED requirement to make it into whatever bill eventually is approved, it’s worth raising objections now if you want to increase the odds  that it does not return. (I serve on the board of NCL and worked with others in the coalition on the alert—if you have any questions or comments about it, feel free to let me know.)

Also, in my earlier post, I focused in on the high school diploma/GED requirement in the bill, but it’s worth pointing out that other groups have objected to many other provisions in the bill. If you are interested in those other issues, you may want to read this legislative update from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) on the bill.

NELP did raise a point in their analysis of the high school diploma/GED requirement that I did not think of, which is that unemployment insurance eligibility is supposed to be driven solely by loss of employment and employer payments into the applicable unemployment insurance trust funds on behalf of their employees—and not based on income level, educational attainment, or other characteristics of the unemployed worker. That’s a good point, and we included it in the NCL talking points.

I disagree slightly with NELP’s analysis of the waiver provision (see my earlier post). While the authors of this paper agree that the lack of clarity to the waiver provision makes it ineffectual, they assume that the burden referred to is the burden on an individual applying for benefits—not on the state in administrating the provision. I actually don’t think it’s clear at all. If anything, I think the language suggests the burden to be considered is the state’s administrative burden, which offers no protection to individuals at all.

All of which is to say I think this provision in the bill is even worse than the folks at NELP do, and they really hate this bill.

UPDATE (12/14/11): The House passed the bill last night, 234-193. Again, there is little chance this bill in its present form will pass into law. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has already vowed to reject it, and the President has said he would veto it anyway.