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Coons, Isakson, Kaine, Portman introduce bill to help unemployed Americans find good jobs

Photo Credit: W. Scott McGill

Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have introduced legislation to help more unemployed Americans reenter the workforce.

The Building on Reemployment Improvements to Deliver Good Employment (BRIDGE) for Workers Act would give states more flexibility in administering existing unemployment benefits to help more Americans find good-paying jobs.

These reemployment benefits—which include job search assistance, employability assessment, job matching, financial literacy services, and assistance with resume writing and interviewing—have proved highly successful. When workers are laid off, early access to these services reduces the duration of their unemployment, strengthening both the economic security of working families and the solvency of state unemployment trust funds.

Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.), and Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) introduced companion legislation in the House, which passed with bipartisan support on April 9, 2019. Senate passage of the bill will send it to the President’s desk.

“Today’s job market can be highly disruptive,” said Coons. “A new technology or a shuttered factory can quickly put a hardworking American out of a job. Unemployment Insurance is an earned benefit that provides much-needed support, but during these uncertain times, many can benefit from additional help finding a new well-paying job. Meeting face-to-face with an expert, who can identify good job opportunities and coach people through the hiring process, can make all the difference, and the BRIDGE for Workers Act gives states the flexibility to offer that service to more workers. I call on my Senate colleagues to quickly pass this commonsense, bipartisan bill.”

“The BRIDGE for Workers Act is commonsense legislation that would help more job-seeking Americans find valuable employment more quickly and provide states with more flexibility to aid these workers more effectively,” said Isakson. “Through employment services, counseling and access to relevant data, this measure would help improve opportunities for Americans looking to finding a job.”

“If we can do more to help hardworking Americans gain employment again, we have to do it. In a changing economy, this bipartisan legislation would give more Americans who are out of work access to career counseling and improve assistance with job searches, resume writing, and interviews. This commonsense bill is good for workers and good for our economy,” said Kaine.

“Reemployment services like job counseling and interview coaching are effective tools that will help strengthen our nation’s workforce,” said Portman. “The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that this targeted expansion of these reemployment services will help reduce the deficit because of their proven effectiveness in helping more Americans reenter the job market. I am happy to help lead this legislation alongside this results-minded group of legislators.”

“Having a job provides Americans with a well-earned paycheck, the ability to provide for their family, and a sense of dignity,” said Murphy. “I was proud to steer this bipartisan bill successfully through the House, and I thank Senator Coons for leading the companion effort in the Senate to give more unemployed Americans the skills and resources they need to return to the workforce.”

“The Unemployment Insurance program plays a critical role in helping workers get back on their feet when they fall on hard times, but it should do more than simply process checks,” said Walorski. “Treating unemployed workers like people, not numbers on a spreadsheet, is the key to helping them find good jobs more quickly. I’m grateful to my colleagues in the Senate for their work to help get this bill to the president’s desk so states can focus on the individual needs of workers and families can thrive.”

The U.S. Department of Labor awards annual grants to states and territories so they can provide reemployment services to unemployment claimants and help them find work. Under current law, however, states can only use their federal grants to assist workers who are expected to exhaust their unemployment benefits before they find work. This unnecessary restriction prevents many unemployed workers from getting valuable assistance. The BRIDGE for Workers Act would remove this restriction and allow states to use their grants to provide support to any individual receiving unemployment benefits, as long as the state believes these services would help them return to work more quickly. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that new investments in reemployment services scheduled over the next decade would reduce the budget deficit by $600 million between 2022 and 2027.

The legislation is endorsed by the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA), the non-partisan national organization representing all 50 state workforce agencies, D.C., and U.S. territories.

The text of the bill can be found here.  A one-pager can be found here.