From an August 2015 post by Gay Gilbert on the 80th anniversary of the unemployment system:
Anniversaries are a chance to reflect on the work we’ve done and what we hope for in the future. Reflecting on 80 years of the Unemployment Insurance program is especially poignant for me as the last five years (and more) have been marked by immense struggles and profound accomplishments. Our economy is recovering after the most difficult economic period in our lifetime. Millions of lives were turned upside down by rampant layoffs.
And through it all, the Unemployment Insurance system was there to lend a hand, offering support for individuals and families while they looked for a job. At a time when they needed it most, UI benefits helped put food on the table and a roof over the heads of millions of American families.
The UI program is also credited by most economists as playing a vital role in stabilizing the economy. The program provides money to the people who need it most and who in turn inject that money right back into the economy at a critical time. These dollars are spent on food, school supplies, rent and other vital products and services that help local employers remain in business – preventing further job losses.
And the backbone of the program are the men and women at the federal, state and local level who kept the program running smoothly – even in the face of unprecedented budget constraints and capacity challenges. They continue to be key partners as we enact reforms to develop a program that meets the needs of workers and employers in the 21st century.
And as we look to the future, we have more tools for laid-off workers that we didn’t have during the Great Recession. Recent legislation is helping to ensure that laid-off workers not only get the financial support they need, but are also connected to federal employment services to help them get back on their feet quickly. Employers also have tools like Short Time Compensation to help be avoid layoffs during temporary weak business cycles.
UI has a proud legacy and will continue to serve generations to come.
Gay Gilbert is the Director of Office of the Unemployment Insurance at the U.S. Department of Labor.