Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware; Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia; Tim Kaine, D-Virginia; and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, introduced legislation Nov. 14 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-Florida, Jackie Walorski, R-Indiana, Xochitl Torres Small, D-New Mexico, and Darin LaHood, R-Illinois, introduced companion legislation in the House, which passed with bipartisan support April 9. 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 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 from 2022-27.
The legislation is endorsed by the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, the non-partisan national organization representing all 50 state workforce agencies as well as Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories.
The full text of the bill is available at bit.ly/33O2Spv; a one-pager on the bill is available at bit.ly/2qQNLwQ.