Report: Family Caregivers Who Lose Jobs Due to Care Responsibilities Often Don’t Receive Jobless Aid

Washington, D.C.Workers who lose their jobs due to caring for older, sick, or disabled family members are unlikely to receive unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, according to a new report. This is the case despite provisions in some states’ UI rules that are intended to address such situations.

Access to Unemployment Insurance Benefits for Family Caregivers, produced jointly by the AARP Public Policy Institute, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), and National Employment Law Project (NELP), is a comprehensive 51-state overview of how unemployment insurance rules apply to those who are forced to quit their jobs or who are fired when they undertake caregiving responsibilities for spouses, older relatives, or other family members requiring caregiving assistance.

“With nearly half of the country’s 42 million family caregivers also working full-time jobs, it’s critical that we have a safety net to support those who must leave their jobs when the demands of caregiving become severe,” said Liz Ben-Ishai, senior policy analyst at CLASP and a co-author of the report. ”It’s heartening that some states enable workers to access unemployment insurance benefits once they are able to begin searching for new employment. However, there is considerable work needed to expand access in more states, improve implementation of existing rules, and revise rules to more accurately reflect the needs of working caregivers,” added Ben-Ishai.

Rick McHugh, senior staff attorney with NELP, commented, “One major surprise in our research is that even in states that have more favorable formal rules in place, UI is not widely available because of a lack of familiarity by potential recipients and uneven administration by state agencies.”

Based upon a review of legal rules and in-depth interviews with agency staff and local advocates, the report finds that a combination of outmoded rules and lack of public outreach leaves many potential recipients in the dark about their unemployment insurance options. In addition, inadequate implementation of existing policies results in many denials of claims, even in states that have adopted more favorable rules meant to accommodate family caregivers who quit their jobs.

The report on family caregiving and unemployment insurance was commissioned by the AARP Public Policy Institute as part of its Raising Expectations Long-Term Services and Supports Scorecard project and was supported by funding from the SCAN Foundation and Commonwealth Fund.

Click here to read the report.