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 Home > News & Policies > October 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 4, 2001

The Back to Work Relief Package

The  terrorist  attacks of September 11 had a devastating and direct impact on our country.   Unfortunately, these attacks continue to affect the lives of  Americans who have lost their jobs because of the shock to our nation's economy.   The  airlines  and  related  industries  have  already announced approximately  100,000 layoffs, and analysts predict that this number could grow.  We must not let the terrorist attacks harm one of our country's most valuable resources -- its workforce.

In order to help protect the individuals and families whose livelihoods are threatened because of the economic consequences of these attacks, President Bush  proposes  to provide relief immediately to those who are hardest hit. The  Bush  Administration's  proposal  focuses  on mitigating the financial impacts of the terrorist attacks on our workforce while helping the workers who  have been permanently laid off get back to work as quickly as possible through training and job search assistance.

To strengthen the safety net for workers during this crisis, President Bush proposes:

  • Extending unemployment benefits to Americans whose jobs were affected by the attacks
  • Providing $3 billion in special National Emergency Grants to help displaced workers maintain health coverage, supplement their income and receive job training
  • Encouraging affected workers to take advantage of more than $6 billion in existing federal programs that provide job search, training, placement and other services.
  • Making $11 billion available to states to help low-income workers displaced from their jobs to receive health insurance.

Extending Unemployment Benefits
In  some states, and in particular those states that were direct targets of the  terrorist  attacks  on  September  11,  the  economic  consequences of September 11 may cause many Americans to lose their jobs and make it harder for  them to get back to work quickly.  Under current law, states provide a certain  number of weeks of unemployment compensation (usually 26 weeks) to individuals who become unemployed.

To  help  ensure  that Americans are able to continue to support themselves and  their  families during this time of recovery, the President proposes a new  temporary  Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation Program.  This program:

  • Provides thirteen additional weeks of unemployment compensation for individuals who become unemployed after September 11 in states where the state's total unemployment rate increases by 30% over what it was prior to September 11, 2001.
  • Provides these same extended benefits automatically to states in which the President issued an emergency or major disaster declaration due to the direct effects of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
  • Provides these additional weeks of compensation at the same level as the prior weeks of unemployment compensation.
  • Pays for the additional compensation entirely with federal dollars.
  • Maintains this program for 18 months.

Providing $3 Billion in Special National Emergency Grants for Income Support, Certain Health Care Premiums and Job Training
National  Emergency  Grants  (NEGs)  are federal grants administered by the Secretary of Labor, and they may be awarded to any state experiencing plant closings or mass layoffs.  Currently, the grants may be used to support job training  and reemployment services and to make certain limited payments to individuals  enrolled in training.  The grants also may be used to help pay for  certain  services,  such  as  childcare  and  transportation,  to help individuals complete training and transition back to work.

In  some  states,  local  regions and communities are suffering due to mass layoffs and plant closings caused by the September 11 tragedy.  In order to provide  assistance  to  these  communities  and populations, the President proposes  temporarily  expanding  the  National Emergency Grant program and providing  $3  billion  to  assist  dislocated workers during this recovery period.  This emergency expansion will be maintained for 18 months.

Under this temporary expansion of the program, grants may be used by states to  help  ensure  that  dislocated  workers:  (i) maintain health insurance coverage;  (ii)  receive  some  form  of income support during the recovery period;  and  (iii) return to the workforce as quickly as possible with the help of job training and job search assistance.

Specifically, under the program, states experiencing a major plant closure, mass  layoff or multiple layoffs or dislocations are eligible for a special National  Emergency  Grant  if  the  Governor of a state certifies that the events  of  September  11,  2001  contributed  importantly  to the closure, layoffs, or dislocations.  Grants could be used by the states to:

  • pay up to 75% of health care premiums covered by COBRA for up to ten months for laid off or dislocated workers (COBRA is a federal law that gives many workers the option of continuing their employer-provided health insurance -- at their own cost -- when they are laid off);
  • provide additional weeks of income support for individuals who have used up their unemployment compensation and are not in states eligible for the Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation program -- as long as those individuals are enrolled in training;
  • provide income support payments for individuals who are ineligible for unemployment compensation but are able to demonstrate a sufficient attachment to employment -- as long as those individuals are enrolled in training; and
  • provide additional dollars to provide a full array of job search and training services, including customized training, placement assistance and relocation expenses.

Encouraging Americans to Take Advantage of Existing Services
For  all  Americans who suffer job loss, there continue to be many existing services  to  help  them  through  this  difficult time.  The Department of Labor, in cooperation with the states, currently administers and helps fund several   programs   to   assist  Americans  financially  during  times  of unemployment  and  help  them  improve  their  skills  and get back to work quickly.  The President's FY 2002 budget included over $6 billion for these programs.  Available services include:

  • Job training;
  • Vocational, career and personal counseling, including grief counseling;
  • Comprehensive assessment of employability, development of a re-employment plan, workshops on interviewing and resume preparation;
  • Job search and job placement assistance and useful labor market information;
  • Needs-related payments;
  • Supportive services to help the individual to return to the workforce and/or complete training, including transportation assistance, child care, dependent care;  and
  • Relocation expenses.

Helping States Provide Health Insurance for Lower-Income Workers and Their Families by Announcing the Availability of $11 Billion in Unspent Funds
Currently, states can apply for expedited review of proposals to expand the health  insurance  coverage  they  offer  through  Medicaid  and  the State Children's  Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).  The Department of Health and Human Services is announcing that states have $11 billion in unspent S-CHIP match  funds  available  immediately  to  support  these  expansions  -- in addition to the $3.1 billion in SCHIP allocations for FY 2002.

  • Since January, HHS has approved state plan amendments and waivers that are projected to expand health insurance coverage to 1.5 million Americans and enhanced benefits for another 3.5 million Americans.
  • To speed further expansions of coverage, especially to cover the majority of uninsured Americans who have low incomes, an expedited review process is available through the Health Insurance Flexibility and Accountability (HIFA) Initiative.
  • HHS will also provide expedited review for health insurance coverage expansions that assist workers who have lost their jobs.
  • To support these expansions, the Department of Health and Human Services is announcing that $11 billion in match funds are available now to virtually all states.
  • With substantial funding and a rapid, flexible review process, states have an unprecedented opportunity to implement health insurance coverage expansions best suited to the needs of their citizens in this difficult time.