Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) and Rep. John Carney (D-DE) have introduced the Flexibility to Promote Reemployment Act, bipartisan legislation that would encourage job creation by providing states with more flexibility to help unemployed individuals collect paychecks instead of benefit checks.
Under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, the Department of Labor (DOL) was granted waiver authority within the unemployment insurance (UI) program. The waivers would allow unprecedented flexibility in the use of state UI funds, enabling states to operate demonstration projects to test alternative means of assisting the unemployed in their efforts to re-enter the workforce. To date, Texas is the only state that has applied for a waiver and its application was swiftly denied. Many states have described the 24-page “guidance,” which lays out the application process created by the DOL, as onerous and time consuming.
During a House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Human Resources hearing in April of 2012, former Assistant Secretary Jane Oates stated, “If no States applied (for a waiver) in the first several months, I think that would make us go back to the drawing board on this one.”
“At a time when our unemployment rate remains unacceptably high, we need to be doing everything we can to advance solutions that will promote job creation. This includes providing states with the necessary flexibility to implement programs that will help the unemployed find work,” said Rep. Renacci. “It is time for the Department of Labor (DOL) to go back to the drawing board and reassess its previously issued guidance. The Flexibility to Promote Reemployment Act would implement a series of reforms to the current demonstration project waiver in an attempt to make it more appealing to states, increasing states’ flexibility to help unemployed individuals find employment by reducing the unnecessary Washington red tape that continues to stand in the way of job growth in Ohio’s 16th district and throughout the country.”
Among the reforms in the Flexibility to Promote Reemployment Act, this bill would clarify application requirements and demonstration activities, allow for greater transparency in the demonstration termination process, and shift the responsibility of evaluation from the states to the DOL. Additionally, this legislation furthers extends the deadline for waiver applications from 2015 to 2017.
During the April hearing, two witnesses testified to the difficulties of applying for a waiver. Larry Temple, a representative from the Texas Workforce Commission, described the DOL’s cumbersome application requirements in his testimony. "We were disappointed that the guidance appears to go beyond what we believe is required by the legislation. The legislation set out a simple process in about four pages of bill language, yet DOL released 19 pages of guidance that we believe to be overly bureaucratic and administratively burdensome,” said Temple.
Darrell Gates testified on behalf of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. He said, “While New Hampshire has an excellent return-to-work program, it decided against applying for the demonstration project because USDOL imposed too many conditions in its Unemployment Insurance Program Letter. In order to provide assurances that all requirements in USDOL’s application process were complete, New Hampshire would need an additional staff person to complete the application."
“Congress’ number one priority needs to be getting Americans back to work,” said Rep. Carney. “I&rsq