Jones, Sewell call on Ivey to expand unemployment benefits

Published 8:37 am Saturday, March 21, 2020

With the number of cases of COVID-19 in the state continuing to rise by the day, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-AL, and U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, addressed a letter to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and her administration Thursday urging the extension of unemployment benefits to workers impacted by the novel coronavirus.

Due to the economic and public health crisis that has cropped up in the disease’s wake, many workers have seen their hours slashed or been laid off – on top of that, Alabama enacted a new law on Jan. 1, 2020, that cut unemployment benefits from a maximum of 26 weeks to between 14 and 20 weeks.

At current, Alabama workers who qualify for unemployment benefits are eligible to receive up to $275 a week through the program.

In the letter, the two lawmakers praised Ivey for the actions her administration has thus far taken to “streamline the processing and availability of unemployment benefits,” saying that such actions “have been instrumental in shaping the public’s understanding of the coronavirus’ impact.”

However, they continued, the state’s economy will inevitably workers across a variety of sectors are impacted, in one way or another, by the encroaching pandemic.

“We are facing unprecedented economic upheaval and families will increasingly rely on these funds to afford basic necessities, including food, housing and medication,” the letter stated. “One of our top priorities must be to support workers and families facing difficult financial circumstances due to the pandemic.”

The letter called on Ivey to collaborate with the Alabama Legislature, which is currently on break from this year’s legislative session, to make 26 weeks of unemployment benefits avialble to all eligible Alabama workers for the duration of the crisis.

“This action would be an impactful step to maintaining economic stability during this challenging time,” the letter stated.