House Unemployment Benefits Proposal Does Not Provide Any Resources, Just Restrictions

In media coverage of the debate over the UI extension, some reports have highlighted statements made by House Republicans suggesting that their proposal somehow contains “resources” or “tools” of some kind to help those without diplomas or GEDs attain those credentials and get back to work.

This was a point made by Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) during an exchange with Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) during a meeting of the House and Senate conferees who are meeting to negotiate a final bill to extend UI benefits for rest of the year. (You can read the entire exchange here, by the way.)

Here is the quote the Press & Sun-Bulletin of Binghamton, New York, pulled from that exchange:

New York Republican Rep. Tom Reed, of Corning, a member of the conference committee working on a final deal on the tax cut and jobless benefits legislation, said he supports requiring that people have a high school diploma or at least begin working on a GED while receiving unemployment benefits.

“We really need to talk about not just giving a check,” Reed said. “We need to give the tools to American folks so they can get back to work.” (my emphasis)

This is similar to the claim made by Rep. Camp when he originally introduced this proposal. The GED/high school diploma requirement, he said, was “a commonsense reform” designed to “get [the unemployed] the training and resources they need to move from an unemployment check to a paycheck.” (my emphasis)

This is nonsense. There is nothing in the House proposal that provides any resources whatsoever for addition training or adult education. All the House proposal does is cut off benefits to those who have been steadily working without GEDs or High School diplomas, until they earn one. There is no additional funding or any other resources being provided to help those workers obtain such a credential. Or ny other training or education opportunity. And, as has been documented elsewhere, there are around 160,000 people people already on waiting lists for adult education services in federally-funded programs alone.

In other words, this is a proposal to yank benefits away from workers who are otherwise qualified to receive them—not an investment in their skills. As I wrote earlier, all this proposal would do, at best, is increase the demand for adult education while providing no new resources for adult education classes, leaving many laid off workers with no way to meet the requirements imposed by the restriction.