WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) today introduced a bill to reduce barriers to unemployment insurance for workers throughout the country who are unable to work due to the Coronavirus. The bill will address “waiting week” requirements, which forces laid-off workers who have satisfied every other eligibility requirement to wait one week before being able to access unemployment assistance. These requirements exist in 42 states (though New Jersey doesn’t have a waiting period).
The bill would federally fund the first week of unemployment insurance during national disasters and public health emergencies and it would give states two years to amend their laws to ban waiting weeks altogether.
“Public health emergencies can quickly become economic disasters for those who are already struggling,” Booker said. “This common-sense bill ensures workers and their families don’t have to needlessly wait to receive assistance when they need it most.”
Full text of the bill is available here.
Background on Senator Booker’s response to the Coronavirus:
Earlier today, Booker joined Senators Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) in urging the Senate to include paid family leave and paid sick days in any economic package it passes. He also today introduced a bill to address U.S. supply chain vulnerabilities exposed by COVID-19 and spoke at a Small Business Committee hearing about the acute impact such supply disruptions have on American businesses and workers.
Yesterday, Booker introduced legislation to require health insurance plans to cover both testing and treatment related to the virus, with no cost-sharing to patients, and to create a special enrollment period for individuals without coverage. And earlier this week, Booker wrote to the White House about concerns that international travelers are not being screened properly at U.S. airports.
Last week, Booker wrote separately to Senate leaders and the HHS Secretary urging them to prioritize funding for state and local health departments, which are on the front lines of this public health crisis.
In January, as cases of Coronavirus began to spike, he and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) successfully pushed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for heightened passenger screening at Newark Liberty International Airport along with other U.S. ports of entries. Booker has also joined letters to the Administration urging it to establish clear guidelines for state and local governments to receive federal reimbursement for costs incurred dealing with the outbreak and to issue an emergency protective order to protect front-line workers.