Unemployment insurance is broken. How can it be fixed?

The Biden administration will likely be able to push IT upgrades and enhance data coordination between state and federal systems. But setting new national standards to increase unemployment benefits and expand eligibility will be mostly up to Congress through legislation.

Audio, News Story (NATIONAL)

Mitchell Hartman
November 18, 2020

Tags: COVID-19, Unemployment, Unemployment Insurance

Organizations mentioned/involved: National Employment Law Project (NY)


The unprecedented deluge of claims completely overwhelmed the system — which is a patchwork of programs run by the states with support from the U.S. Department of Labor. The task by states was further complicated by having to apply new federal rules for eligibility under PUA, and also having to add an extra $600 to every recipient’s weekly benefit under the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

Laid-off workers waited for hours on hold without ever reaching a state unemployment office worker; online application portals repeatedly crashed; and people’s applications sat in the system for weeks or months without a ruling or any benefit being paid.

“In some states we’re seeing 70% [of applications] approved, in some states, 40 to 50% approved,” said Michele Evermore, a policy analyst at the progressive group National Employment Law Project. “A lot of those are inaccurate denials, a lot of those are people who are still in limbo.”