Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), the Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), released the following statement after the Department of Labor reported that first-time unemployment claims for the week ending April 11 reached 5 million. (The seasonally adjusted number was 5.2 million.) This means that more than 20 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last four weeks as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus.
“These numbers would be even scarier if all of the Americans who have lost their jobs in recent weeks could actually file a claim. But many cannot because unemployment systems across the country have not been upgraded in decades. In one state, workers are being asked to send information for unemployment via fax machine, a technology older than many filers, which few have access to in the home. In other states, it is easier to find toilet paper than it is to file for unemployment.
“Last week, the Joint Economic Committee released a report calling for massive aid to state and local governments and one of the reasons it is needed is because states are likely going to reach a point where they have to borrow money to pay unemployment benefits like they did after the Great Recession. Massive aid is also needed to help states upgrade their unemployment systems.”
Congressman Beyer has been tracking unemployment claims over the past month and has noted previously that they are substantially worse than during the Great Recession and should be addressed by providing significant support to small businesses and their employees and using automatic triggers to ensure Medicaid payments to states and unemployment benefits to workers continue at sufficient levels until the economy has recovered.
Congressman Beyer is currently serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital. In addition to his role as Vice Chair of the JEC, Beyer serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Previously, Beyer served at Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to Switzerland and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.