Unemployment Insurance Recipients

With federal unemployment insurance currently cancelled for unemployed Americans, it’s important to talk about the topic carefully. As insurance, it pays benefit checks when Americans file eligible claims. Therefore, these checks are unemployment insurance benefits.

While this phrase is accurate, journalists and others sometimes abbreviate it to unemployment benefits or jobless benefits. This sounds as if the checks were a benefit of unemployment instead of a benefit of unemployment insurance.  It therefore unconsciously and misleadingly advances the conservative view that cash benefits discourage individual initiative and employment. Unemployment benefits and jobless benefits should be avoided.

The truth is that the checks are benefits of insurance for which their employers have paid taxes while the beneficiaries were employed. The amounts paid are typically far less than people earned while working but provide critical support to families in crisis. The unemployment insurance program typically also requires beneficiaries to apply for jobs every week.

I’ve also sometimes (e.g. this NPR story) heard beneficiaries of unemployment insurance called recipients. This word connotes welfare instead of insurance and should be avoided–even for those in a welfare program.

I think progressives should use the phrase unemployment insurance beneficiaries or Americans seeking to end their unemployment.

What do you think?

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