Minnesota Congressional Delegation Requests Federal Relief For State Unemployment Insurance Programs

July 8, 2020
Press Release
“The rapid rise in unemployment claims in Minnesota and across the country is unprecedented and requires renewed attention from Congress as the pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on our economy”

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN), and Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN-2), Dean Phillips (D-MN-3), Betty McCollum (D-MN-4), Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5) sent a letter to Leaders McConnell and Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and House Minority Leader McCarthy requesting relief for state unemployment insurance programs in any upcoming coronavirus relief package. In the letter, the members of the Minnesota delegation highlighted the strain that the coronavirus pandemic has placed on state unemployment insurance programs and requested that the next relief package allow the Federal Government to cover a portion of the upfront costs paid by non-profit and government employers - a relief measure that the Senate has already approved. 

“The rapid rise in unemployment claims in Minnesota and across the country is unprecedented and requires renewed attention from Congress as the pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on our economy,” the lawmakers wrote. “This extreme level of unemployment has also placed significant stress on Minnesota’s unemployment insurance program—and unemployment insurance programs in states across the country.”

“In light of the unprecedented fiscal challenges facing our economy and state unemployment insurance programs, it is critical that we take steps to provide relief for these programs and to support workers across the country.”

The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below.

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McCarthy,

We write to respectfully request that you provide relief for state Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs to ensure that that these programs are able to continue providing support for the millions of American workers who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The rapid rise in unemployment claims in Minnesota and across the country is unprecedented and requires renewed attention from Congress as the pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on our economy.

The loss of jobs and income for so many Minnesotans has left many of our constituents unable to support their families in the absence of unemployment insurance. In Minnesota, more workers have filed claims for unemployment insurance over the past two and half a months than in the last four years, with over 800,000 applications filed since March 16.  Across the nation, over 47 million workers have filed applications for unemployment insurance since the pandemic began in March, with over 1 million workers filing for unemployment assistance for each of the past 14 weeks. 

This extreme level of unemployment has also placed significant stress on Minnesota’s unemployment insurance program—and unemployment insurance programs in states across the country. Given the unprecedented demands on these programs, we urge you to prioritize the following modifications to unemployment insurance programs in the next coronavirus response package:

  1. First, we ask that you allow the Federal Government to cover a portion of the upfront UI costs paid by “reimbursing employers”—non-profits and government employers that pay their unemployment taxes by reimbursing the costs of the UI benefits collected by their former employees. While the CARES Act allowed reimbursing employers to cover 50 percent of these unemployment costs, guidance issued by the Department of Labor requires states to collect 100 percent of these costs from employers upfront and to reimburse them at a later date – creating an unnecessary administrative burden and budgetary challenges for employers. By unanimous consent, the Senate recently passed a bill, cosponsored by Senator Klobuchar and Senator Smith, to resolve this issue. We believe the House should act promptly to pass this measure and the President should sign it into law.

  2. We also ask that you provide some relief for state unemployment insurance trust fund accounts to help states avoid the unsustainable debt created to cover the significant increase in the demand for UI benefits. 

  3. Finally, we ask that you extend the deferral period of the accrual of interest on federal unemployment insurance advances to states beyond the end of this calendar year – when the current deferral period is scheduled to expire.

In light of the unprecedented fiscal challenges facing our economy and state unemployment insurance programs, it is critical that we take steps to provide relief for these programs and to support workers across the country.

Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter. We look forward to working with you to address these issues.

 

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