April 23, 2021

Kilmer Joins Senator Van Hollen, Rep. Levin in Introducing Bicameral Legislation to Tackle Long-Term Unemployment Crisis

Washington, DC On Thursday, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) joined U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Andy Levin (MI-09) in introducing the Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act, bicameral legislation to create a subsidized jobs program in order to combat the long-term unemployment crisis in the United States. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, released in March, specifically endorses a subsidized jobs program for long-term unemployed and underemployed workers.

Even before the pandemic hit, over a million Americans were looking for work for over six months and could not find a job. That number rose to over 4 million people in the wake of the pandemic. The Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act creates an innovative federal program to generate real job opportunities for people who have been unemployed for six months or more, getting them back on their feet and into the workforce.

“While our economy is beginning to recover from the largest health and economic crisis in a generation, we know that even before this pandemic, too many people across our region and our country have struggled to find work,” said Rep. Kilmer. “That’s why I’m supporting the Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act – which provides targeted federal support to help folks get back to work and resources to overcome the barriers keeping them out of the workforce, including transportation and child care. This is about creating jobs and opportunity for people at a time when that’s needed more than ever.”

The Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act would provide targeted funding to local areas to generate work opportunities and get these Americans back into the workforce. The legislation provides supports to help people overcome the barriers keeping them out of the workforce – such as transportation, childcare, job readiness training, substance abuse treatment, or assistance finding a permanent job – and training programs that build skills to sustain permanent employment. The bill also provides competitive grants to local areas to support innovation and investment in areas hit hardest by high poverty and chronic joblessness, which would give additional flexibility and support in the places where it is needed most. These grants would support locally-driven development, worker-owned enterprises, and other strategies to ensure that area residents are part of the process and benefit from the results. Experts on workforce development and on addressing poverty have praised this approach as a proven way to combat the jobs crisis and create economic opportunity.

“Right now our country is facing a long-term unemployment crisis that has stranded over 4 million American job-seekers. To help them find work – and to prevent lasting and widespread economic damage – we’ve got to act. Subsidized jobs programs are a proven way to tackle this crisis, providing opportunities to Americans looking for employment while lifting up our communities and local economies. The Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act puts this tool to work and makes crucial investments in training and supporting our workforce. I was glad to see President Biden include this idea broadly in his American Jobs Plan and will be working to get this vital provision through Congress,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

“It is imperative that the 4 million-plus Americans who have been unemployed for over six months receive targeted and robust assistance from the federal government,” said Representative Levin. “Long-term unemployment is a drag on our communities and the economy that we cannot afford as we look to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m introducing the Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act to generate meaningful job opportunities for individuals through targeted investments administered via local workforce development boards and community organizations. The bill also provides resources for services like affordable and accessible transportation, childcare and substance abuse treatment to overcome workforce reentry barriers. I am excited to partner with Senator Van Hollen on this comprehensive effort to lift up and support millions of Americans in need of good-paying jobs.”

In addition to Senator Van Hollen, the legislation is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

“Long-term unemployment is devastating for Americans’ job prospects and financial security. The pandemic has caused millions of Americans to experience long-term unemployment and we need to do all we can do get these folks back to work so they can pay rent, buy groceries, and save for the future. Our bill is an important piece of the puzzle that would get Americans back to work,” said Senator Wyden.

Text of the legislation is available here. A one-pager on the legislation is available here.

The legislation is supported by a wide array of organizations and advocacy groups, including Service Employees International Union (SEIU), National Skills Coalition, Heartland Alliance, National Association of Workforce Boards, National Association of Workforce Development Professionals, United States Workforce Association, Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, Center for Employment Opportunities, REDF, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Democracy Collaborative, National Urban League, America Forward, Invest In America Action, Midwest Urban Strategies, United Way of Central Maryland, and Maryland Workforce Association.

"Black Americans, who were among the hardest hit by coronavirus layoffs, are now recovering at the slowest rate. This threatens to worsen stark wealth and income disparities long after the pandemic is over. The effects of long-term unemployment can be devastating as workers become discouraged and face mounting financial stress. We know that people facing long-term unemployment need extra support and increased access to opportunity, and The Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act addresses these needs head-on,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League?.

“Long-term unemployment can be a life-wrecking experience for workers and their families. Many people who have experienced long stretches of unemployment never work again. Their unemployment often leads to drug and alcohol abuse and other health problems, as well as family problems and breakups. Senator Van Hollen has proposed an innovative program for getting the long-term unemployed back to work. This is a goal that should be shared by people across the political spectrum. It also is a program that is urgently needed, as long-term unemployment has soared in the Pandemic Recession,” said Dean Baker, senior economist and co-founder, Center for Economic and Policy Research.

“Frontline staff in the American Job Centers know that the longer a jobseeker is out of work, the harder it is to help them find a job. The Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act provides an innovative solution. The Act focuses on decision making and accountability at the local level – where problems are solved. NAWDP is proud to support this legislation on behalf of our members around the country, who will be doing this work and helping to solve this problem,” said Melissa Robbins, Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Workforce Development Professionals.

"America Forward is proud to support the Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act, which would make critical, targeted investments in proven approaches to reach, engage, and support workers experiencing prolonged unemployment. Directing resources specifically to eliminate barriers and create pathways back into the workforce for people who've been unemployed for six months or more is essential to driving an inclusive economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a more equitable, sustainable economy in the long term, and moving all of America forward,” said Deborah Smolover, Executive Director, America Forward.

“Long-term unemployment is a devastating policy failure that threatens families, harms employers, and destabilizes local communities. It particularly harms Black communities but is unquestionably harmful to all of us. With more than 4 million Americans jobless for six or more months in March 2021, we need a focused plan to ensure a full and equitable economic recovery. This well-designed proposal would expand economic activity and help ensure that working people facing lengthy unemployment spells simply have a chance to engage in meaningful paid work,” said Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Co-Executive Director, Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality.

“After a devastating year that has left millions without a job, we have a historic opportunity to invest in American workers, and create a stronger, more inclusive economy than we had before the pandemic,” said Zac Petkanas, senior advisor to Invest in America Action. “Ensuring that everyone willing to work can have access to a good-paying job is an important step toward sustainable, equitable economic growth and prosperity. We applaud Senator Van Hollen for his strong leadership tackling the jobs crisis and deep commitment to getting Americans back to work!” 

“As the nation’s largest reentry employment organization, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) is proud to support the Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act. In providing training, jobs,and wraparound services to people who are long-term unemployed, this legislation will ensure the 600,000+ individuals leaving prison this year during the COVID-19 recovery have access to economic opportunities. The best way for justice-involved individuals to build skills is through a paying job. This legislation will create permanent connections to the workforce for people returning home to COVID-19-impacted and historically underserved communities,” said Sam Schaeffer, Chief Executive Officer, Center for Employment Opportunities.

“The American workforce development system learned many lessons during the last recession, and with all the challenges thrown at the labor market over the last year, we know it will take time for us to return to low levels of unemployment. Long-term unemployed workers were overlooked in the labor market as we recovered from the Great Recession. Recovering from long stretches of unemployment requires a variety of services. We are pleased that Senator Van Hollen and Representative Levin not only recognize this situation but are also offering a solution. NAWB would like to thank Senator Van Hollen and Representative Levin for being leaders and advocates for workforce development by demonstrably helping to prepare the American workforce to withstand the challenges of an ever-changing global economy.  We look forward to working with Congress to advance the legislation,” said Ron Painter, President and CEO, National Association of Workforce Boards.

"When individuals are left behind by labor market forces, it is not only a loss for them, but for all of us. We cannot afford to keep writing off the loss of human potential, when we face so many challenges as a nation and society. Sen. Van Hollen's Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act is a timely and urgent response to chronic unemployment that affects all parts of our country,” said Julie Kerksick, Community Advocates Public Policy Institute.