From: The Honorable Rodney Davis
Sent By: ashley.phelps@mail.house.gov
Bill: H.R. 1530
Date: 7/7/2014

As Congress continues the debate over extending long-term unemployment benefits for millions of Americans and how to pay for them, finding ways to reduce the need for 27 or more weeks of unemployment benefits must be part of the discussion. In addition to creating an environment that promotes job growth, we must encourage job training that allows folks the opportunity to obtain the skills needed to compete in today’s workforce.  Unfortunately, some of our current policies discourage this.

Today, there are more than 10.9 million unemployed Americans. This past November, the Department of Labor (DOL) reported people without a high school diploma had an unemployment rate of 10.8 percent, more than three times that of unemployment rates among college graduates.  Those with just a high school diploma are experiencing unemployment rates nearly twice that of college graduates.  Yet, we know there have been nearly 3.9 million job openings in November.

Despite having all this information, many of our constituents are faced with choosing between being able to support their families or losing their unemployment benefits if they seek training needed to advance in today’s workforce.  The Opportunity KNOCKS (Kindling New Options for Career and Knowledge Seekers) Act seeks to make it so our constituents don’t have to choose.

Problem:

Unemployed workers who seek training through programs at our universities, community colleges and other technical schools fear they will be disqualified for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.  This is often due to a complicated Workforce Investment Act system, clerical oversights and outdated policies.

For example, some unemployed workers were attending a training program at a university in my district to gather the technical skills necessary to work in biorefineries that are popping up all over the country.  The university was partnering with industry to provide a five-day, 50-hour training program with an internship through no cost of the participants.  Unfortunately, some of the participants were told later that they would have to pay back their unemployment compensation because of the program’s requirements.

How we can help:

H.R. 1530 would broaden the definition of approved training and require states to approve any worker who is seeking training under the Workforce Investment Act, any industry-recognized certificate, an apprenticeship and an associate or baccalaureate degree.  For example, if an unemployed worker is accepted into a training program or taking classes to improve their opportunity for employment, they would not be at risk of losing their UI benefits.

Background:

The DOL provides guidance to state administrators of the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Program to consider a number of factors, including the need for remedial and post-secondary education, in making determinations on approved job training activities.  You can view these recommendations here.

Please join me in supporting our workforce and helping end perpetual joblessness by encouraging those on unemployment to seek the training needed to compete for jobs in the 21st Century.  If you would like to become a cosponsor, please contact Ashley Phelps in my office either my email at Ashley.phelps@mail.house.gov or by phone at 202-225-2371.

Sincerely,

Rodney Davis

Member of Congress