Congressional Research Service (CRS)
Federal Programs Available to Unemployed Workers
Katelin P. Isaacs, Coordinator, Analyst in Income Security
David H. Bradley, Specialist in Labor Economics
Benjamin Collins, Analyst in Labor Policy
Janemarie Mulvey, Specialist in Health Care Financing
January 9, 2013
[full-text, 18 pages]
Four groups of federal programs target unemployed workers: unemployment insurance, health
care assistance, job search assistance, and training. This report presents information on federal
programs targeted to unemployed workers specifically, but does not attempt to discuss meanstested
programs (such as Medicaid or SSI) that are available regardless of employment status.
When eligible workers lose their jobs, the Unemployment Compensation (UC) program may
provide up to 26 weeks of income support through the payment of regular UC benefits.
Unemployment benefits may be extended by the temporarily authorized Emergency
Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) program. Unemployment benefits may also be extended
for up to 13 or 20 weeks by the permanent Extended Benefit (EB) program if certain economic
conditions exist within the state. Workers whose job loss is caused by foreign competition may be
eligible for extended income support through the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers
(TAA) program. 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 continue health insurance coverage from their employers. The
second, the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC), allows certain TAA participants to receive an
advanceable and refundable tax credit for purchasing qualified 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 (WIA) of 1998. 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 (ES), 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.
Title I of WIA 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.