WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today praised the inclusion of $500 million in funds in the economic recovery legislation to help states modernize their unemployment insurance systems. Brown, a longtime advocate for unemployment insurance modernization, said these funds are particularly critical as state unemployment insurance systems have been recently overwhelmed with increased demand.

“Too many Americans face delays while applying for unemployment insurance,” said Brown. “These funds will make sure that states have the resources to respond to increased demand. They are also an important first step to ensuring the long-term solvency of state unemployment insurance funds.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the nation’s economy is suffering from the highest unemployment rate in 16 years. Last week, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) reported that Ohio’s unemployment rate in December increased to 7.8 percent—the state’s highest level in twenty-two years.

Jobless claims are putting an enormous strain on state unemployment systems. Earlier this month, the unemployment systems in Ohio, New York, and North Carolina crashed because of the crush of claims. In Ohio, ODJFS normally handles about 7,500 calls each day. In the past two weeks, that number has increased by ten to 75,000 calls per day.

In October 2007, Brown cosponsored the Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act. This legislation would provide states with immediate administrative funds to update unemployment insurance systems. The bill would also provide incentive payments to states adopting measures that improve the solvency and administration of their funds. It is estimated that unemployment insurance modernization will help cover an additional 500,000 workers.

The $500 million in unemployment insurance modernization is included in both the House and Senate drafts of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. These funds would support unemployment administrative services to help states cover more workers and provide more adequate training services to call center staff.