- The Washington Times - Friday, January 27, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In the House of Representatives, we are fighting to help Americans get back to work and put an end to the borrow-and-spend mentality in Washington. We were not sent here to simply continue the status quo. With the president’s failed trillion-dollar stimulus leaving unemployment above 8 percent for the 35th consecutive month, the status quo is both unacceptable and unaffordable.

Unemployment benefits are now paid for as long as 99 weeks - an all-time record. Yet government programs do little to help the unemployed get back to work. The unemployment insurance reforms in a bipartisan bill (H.R. 3630) passed by the House in December are designed to move more unemployed workers from benefit checks to paychecks.

One reform would require more unemployment benefit recipients to get the education and training they need to get back on the job and earn solid wages.

Federal statistics show that those without a high school diploma have unemployment rates 50 percent higher than those who have completed high school. As recent research also shows, “Workers with less than a high school degree are almost four times as likely to be unemployed than workers with a college degree,” and “a much higher share of all workers with less than a high school degree actually face long-term unemployment.”

Those who lack a high school diploma face a difficult road. They will have a harder time getting new work, will earn lower wages in their next job and will have a greater chance of becoming unemployed again in the future. We need to help more people overcome these grim statistics and get back to work in new and better jobs.

This is not a one-size-fits-all requirement. States will be able to make individual exceptions, such as for older workers who may lack a high school diploma but have specialized skills or other training.

This is one of several reforms designed to ensure that people who need more assistance returning to work get the help they need to get back to collecting wages instead of unemployment checks.

We need to get people re-employed and earning wages so they can support themselves and their families. I am mystified by the opposition to helping people improve their job prospects by obtaining a GED diploma.

All Americans should support these reforms and insist that they be included in any legislation designed to help the unemployed.

Rep. Tom Reed is a New York Republican.

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