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[Excerpt] Four groups of federal programs target unemployed workers: income support, health care assistance, job search assistance, and training. Unemployed workers and their families may experience substantial income loss and, as a result, may qualify for a number of other federal programs that determine eligibility based on income (e.g., the Earned Income Tax Credit, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or Medicaid). This report presents information on federal programs targeted to unemployed workers specifically, but does not attempt to discuss means-tested programs. A variety of benefits may be available to unemployed workers to provide them with income support during a period of unemployment. When eligible workers lose their jobs, the Unemployment Compensation (UC) program may provide income support through the payment of UC benefits (often referred to as Unemployment Insurance, or UI, benefits). Certain groups of workers who lose their jobs on account of international competition may qualify for additional or supplemental income support through Trade Adjustment Act (TAA) programs. If an unemployed worker is not eligible to receive UC benefits and the worker’s unemployment may be directly attributed to a declared major disaster, a worker may be eligible to receive Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits. Two federal laws may aid unemployed workers in the purchase of health insurance. The first, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), allows unemployed workers in certain circumstances to purchase continued health insurance coverage. The second, the Health Care Tax Credit (HCTC), allows certain TAA and Alternative TAA (for older workers) participants to receive an advanceable and refundable tax credit for purchasing health insurance. Federal support for Americans seeking assistance to obtain, retain, or change employment is undertaken by a national system of local One-Stop Career Centers (One-Stops) that were established by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA, P.L. 105-220). A variety of services and partner programs — notably including UC and TAA — are located within or linked to One-Stops, which primarily provide job search assistance, career counseling, labor market information, and other employment services. Core labor exchange services (matching job seekers and employers) are provided by the U.S. Employment Service, which was first established by the Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933 and most recently amended under Title III of WIA. In addition to ES, Title I of WIA authorizes resources for similar core and intensive employment services for youth, adults, dislocated workers, and targeted populations. WIA Title I is also the nation’s central job training legislation, providing funds for traditional, on-the-job, customized, and other forms of training to individuals unable to obtain or retain employment through other services. This report will be updated as new legislation warrants.


Suggested Citation
Whittaker, J. M. & Naughton, B. A. (2007). Federal programs available to unemployed workers (RL34251) [Electronic version]. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.