The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted both the severe inadequacy and major inequities in our country's caregiving infrastructure, including the high out-of-pocket costs of long-term services and supports (LTSS). For many families, care demands may become unmanageable, or manageable only at significant cost to family members’ health, well-being, income, and careers.
Emphasizing stakeholder voices and new partnerships The Academy’s 33rd annual policy conference, Pathways to Economic Security: Bringing All Voices to the Table, was held virtually on March 2-4, 2021. Stakeholders' perspectives led policy conversations around economic security throughout the keynotes, panel dialogues, and workshops. (While we are all stakeholders in economic security
Initial meetings of Unemployment Insurance Task Force highlight concerns about the disproportionate share of women and workers of color in precarious jobs
The Academy’s launch of a new Task Force to explore options for comprehensive modernization of the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program responds to a particularly challenging moment: Millions of jobless workers across the country are poised to lose $300 in weekly support on March 14, and two other programs providing benefits
The protests sweeping the United States (and cities around the world) over the past couple of weeks reflect not just rightful outrage over the heinous murders of George Floyd and others. They are the product of pent-up rage at systemic disparities that make daily life unstable, undignified, and unsafe for people and communities of color.
As we at the Academy grapple with how our work has sought to help reduce these disparities, and how we have fallen short, the most recent data on joblessness and poverty trends shine a spotlight on both, illuminating the urgent work ahead of us.
State Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs support individual workers between jobs and serve an important role in supporting the economy as a whole during downturns. However, they have been eroding for several decades, handicapping their capacity to fulfill these important roles. Unfortunately, neither state agencies nor the federal government responded to the alarm bells being sounded by researchers and advocates until the COVID-19 pandemic put them in stark relief for all to see.
COVID-19 pandemic spotlights both critical importance of and structural gaps in Unemployment Insurance
Researchers have been sounding the alarm about weaknesses in our Unemployment Insurance (UI) program for many years. Unfortunately, it has taken a pandemic for state governments and Congress to pay attention. As a result, this core social insurance program will not be able to perform its key functions – supporting individual workers and their families in challenging times and acting as a financial cushion – to full effect. Workers, especially the most vulnerable ones, will suffer more harm than they should in the coming months, and the nation’s economy will not receive the much-needed boost it could and should have.
The good news is that we have a unique opportunity at this moment, when Congress is exploring and enacting a broad range of policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis, to not only provide temporary emergency UI benefits, but to shore up and reform the program in several key ways.
The Erosion of UI
A defining trait of severe recessions is the staggering levels of long-term unemployment that follow. During the last recession, between 2008 and 2009, 8.4 million jobs, or 6.1% of all payroll employment at the time, were lost. Prior to the last recession, the largest share of the unemployed experiencing long-term unemployment was 26.0% in the early 1980s. The same long-term unemployment rate exceeded 40% into the early 2010s, amounting to over 4%of the entire labor force, and is only now falling to pre-recessionary levels.
The political air is charged these days with claims that various policy ideas, like Medicare-For-All and the Green New Deal, are “socialistic.” Such charges have been made in American history since the late 19th century, often in response to bold new policy concepts put forward to address gaps in income and health care security. This leads us to revisit a fundamental question – what differentiates Socialism from Social Insurance?
Social Insurance as Collective Action
In the words of Robert M. Ball, Founding Chair of our Academy: “Social insurance derives its unique strength from the principle that the best form of self-protection is mutual aid on a universal scale; when everyone contributes, everyone can be protected.” Academy Member and historian Edward D. Berkowitz also quotes Bob Ball:
With most Americans focused on taxes this month, it’s a good time to take a look at the relationship between federal income taxes and social insurance contributions.
Overview of Federal Taxes and Distributional Effects
The latest report by the Joint Committee on Taxation, Overview of the Federal Tax System As In Effect for 2019, provides a comprehensive starting point. This report breaks out the current federal tax system into four elements:
The Academy’s 31st annual policy conference – Regenerating Social Insurance for Millennials and the Millennium – was by all measures a success. It represented a different approach to one of the Academy’s signature events in both style and substance.