House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Michigan) has introduced legislation that would give states greater flexibility in how they use federal funds earmarked for long-term unemployment benefits. The tax package that the White House negotiated in December included a provision to help states pay up to 99 weeks of benefits for the long-term unemployed through the rest of the year.
Under Camp’s bill, the $31 billion states received from the federal government could be redirected to fund job creation programs or tax breaks for employers. States that borrowed close to $44.6 billion from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits could use the funds to pay the interest on those loans that will be due later this year.
Camp said in a statement that the bill “is about giving states the flexibility to spend current funds better, preventing job-destroying tax hikes and helping unemployed individuals find new jobs.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) and Rep. Robert Scott (D-Virginia) say Camp’s bill would “gut” unemployment benefits for millions of displaced workers. The Black lawmakers have offered an alternative proposal that would extend payments for people who’ve exhausted their benefits, including many African-Americans whose unemployment rate in April was almost double that of whites.
“Instead of acting on our bill to extend aid to unemployed workers who have exhausted their benefits, [Camp] wants to gut unemployment benefits and deny millions of jobless workers the means to help make ends meet,” they said in a statement. “As we face an unemployment rate of 9 percent nationwide, an unemployment rate for teenagers three times as high as the national average and an economy where there are 4.4 unemployed workers for every available job opening, it is simply wrong to propose a bill that would further penalize unemployed workers across the country.”