Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in $3.5T spending plan

Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHouse progressives call on Biden to end all new fossil fuel permitting Schumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race Toomey takes aim at Schumer's spending windfall for NYC public housing MORE (D-N.Y.) are calling on party leaders to add unemployment insurance reforms to their forthcoming $3.5 trillion spending plan. 

The two progressive lawmakers spearheaded a letter Thursday signed by 11 other Democrats to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Buttigieg aims to use Tucker Carlson flap to spotlight paternity leave Judge to hear Trump's case against Jan. 6 committee in November MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocratic frustration with Sinema rises Schumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race Guns Down America's leader says Biden 'has simply not done enough' on gun control MORE (D-N.Y.). The lawmakers said that they wrote the message to “express the urgency of including unemployment insurance (UI) reforms in the Build Back Better Act to protect the millions of unemployed workers across this country.” 

The letter comes as House Democrats are working to assemble a sprawling spending package that is key to President BidenJoe BidenGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Sanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE’s “Build Back Better” plan. The bill includes investments for a list of party-backed priorities, ranging from education to climate change and public housing. 

ADVERTISEMENT

This month, 13 House committees succeeded in crafting their portions of the massive spending plan that party leadership aims to pass in the lower chamber by the end of the month. 

However, leadership is expected to make further changes to the legislation before it comes to a floor vote.

“The current state of the unemployment system is a threat to all communities, especially Black and brown communities, in many of the states we represent,” the letter states. “As of now, there are no provisions to reform the unemployment system.”

“We strongly urge Congress to include such improvements before the Build Back Better Act comes for a vote in the House and Senate,” they added. 

Earlier this month, many Americans lost unemployment aid they received under temporary programs set up during the pandemic. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The group of Democrats wrote in the letter that the lack of a provision to expand unemployment aid in the party’s coming spending plan would be “felt most harshly by workers of color, who disproportionately live in the states with the lowest UI coverage rates and work in the jobs with the least access to unemployment benefits.” 

“For example, even as Black workers have been nearly twice as likely to be unemployed compared to white workers, a lower percentage of Black applicants receive UI benefits,” they noted.

The lawmakers went on to call including unemployment insurance reform in the plan an “essential” move to promote “economic opportunity, security and fairness for all.”

To achieve that objective, the group said Congress should “set a floor for UI duration that states must follow, broadly include part-time workers, ban exclusions based on past wages, and require alternative base periods.” 

“A strong and responsive UI system not only helps our entire economy more quickly and equitably recover from future recessions, it is also an essential tool to help dislocated workers stay connected to the workforce and to provide for their families as they seek new employment,” they wrote. 

Reps. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeHouse progressives call on Biden to end all new fossil fuel permitting Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Dip in COVID-19 cases offer possible sign of hope 'I was one of the lucky ones': Three Democrats recount their abortion stories to panel MORE (D-Calif.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarDozens of Democrats call for spending bill to pass 'climate test' House progressives call on Biden to end all new fossil fuel permitting Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed MORE (D-Minn.), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) and Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerPhotos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room Fight breaks out between Jordan, Nadler over rules about showing video at Garland hearing More than 200 women, transgender inmates to be transferred from Rikers Island MORE (D-N.Y.) are among the group of Democrats who signed onto the letter.

The Hill has reached out to the offices of Pelosi and Schumer for comment.