Unemployment Insurance (UI) is a crucial means of supporting workers when they become unemployed. For workers and their families, the loss of a job can be devastating. UI provides partial income replacement to the unemployed while they search for regular work. UI also provides an important boost to the economy as it puts money in the pockets of people who will spend it—usually right away.
However, less than half of the unemployed workers in Montana receive UI. We at looked into why. Today we are releasing the full report titled Making Unemployment Insurance Work for Montana Workers.
We found that certain types of workers are likely to be left out of the UI system. Workers who earn a low wage—particularly women, Native Americans, workers in food, accommodations and retail industries - are less likely to receive UI than other workers.
In addition, Montana’s benefit amounts are below the national average.
Montana had made some changes recently to expand eligibility to UI. We need to maintain those changes and continue to expand eligibility so that UI is a system that works for all workers. Montana’s Unemployment Insurance program is not unique --- no state currently has a UI program that adequately meets the needs of all workers.
Montana can help bolster its UI system by:
These changes would likely shrink the differences for women, Native Americans, and workers in industries with high turnover rates. Supporting workers when work stops is vital to our workers, families and economy.
Sarah Wilhelm has worked for 10 years providing public policy analysis and lobbying for shared prosperity, fair taxation and adequate revenue generation at Voices for Utah Children, the MBPC, and as an independent consultant.
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.