Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 30, 2015

Pryor Wants to Require Public Service for Extended Jobless Benefits

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Mark Pryor is floating the idea of requiring community service or public service in exchange for receiving extended unemployment benefits.

The Arkansas Democrat filed the proposal last week as an amendment to the jobless benefits extension measure pending on the Senate floor. The Pryor amendment would require individuals to perform public service each week in order to maintain their unemployment benefits, with several exceptions including those for illnesses and the need to care for children.

“Extended compensation, including any such compensation under a temporary program, shall not be payable to an individual for any week in which such individual does not perform at least 10 hours of public service,” Pryor’s amendment states.

The amendment would allow the Labor Department to provide for a delay in states where separate laws may be needed to bring about compliance. Otherwise, the new rules would take effect after six months.

Pryor’s proposal is just one of a number of amendments filed by senators on both sides of the aisle without a chance for consideration unless Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Republicans come to an as yet elusive amendment agreement.

“If my Republican colleagues can’t take yes for an answer – if they insist on swamping this important measure with extraneous, political amendments, it will be clear they never wanted to extend unemployment insurance in the first place,” Reid said. “But if Republicans are serious about offering relevant amendments to strengthen and improve this bill, I am more than willing to allow votes on those amendments.”

Reid added that he would not permit a barrage of “political show votes.”

Of course, what constitutes a “show vote” is in the eye of the beholder.

See the legislative text of the Pryor amendment here:

At the end, add the following: SEC. 7. REQUIREMENT FOR PARTICIPATION IN PUBLIC SERVICE AS A CONDITION FOR RECEIPT OF EXTENDED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS. (a) In General.–Section 3304 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (relating to approval of State unemployment compensation laws) is amended– (1) in subsection (a)– (A) in paragraph (18), by striking “and” at the end; (B) by redesignating paragraph (19) as paragraph (20); and (C) by inserting after paragraph (18) the following new paragraph: “(19) extended compensation, including any such compensation under a temporary program, shall not be payable to an individual for any week in which such individual does not perform at least 10 hours of public service (as described in subsection (g)); and”; and (2) by adding at the end the following new subsection: “(g) Public Service.– “(1) In general.–For purposes of subsection (a)(19), the term `public service’ means unpaid service by an individual to a Federal, State, or local agency (as permitted in accordance with applicable Federal, State, and local law), with tangible evidence to be provided to the State agency by the individual on a weekly basis demonstrating that the individual has performed such service during the previous week. “(2) Exceptions.–For purposes of the public service requirement under subsection (a)(19), an individual shall be deemed to have satisfied such requirement for that week if the individual– “(A) provides tangible evidence to the State agency demonstrating that such individual was unable to perform the required public service for that week due to an illness or family emergency; “(B) is a parent of a qualifying child (as defined in section 152(c)) and provides tangible evidence to the State agency demonstrating an inability to perform the required number of hours of public service due to responsibility for child care; or “(C) provides tangible evidence of a bona fide attempt to perform public service and, pursuant to such criteria as is determined appropriate by the State agency, is determined to be unable to perform such service due to a lack of available public service opportunities in the area in which the individual resides. “(3) Performance of work activities.– “(A) In general.–The total number of hours of public service required under subsection (a)(19) shall be reduced by 1 hour for each hour during that week that an individual performs work activities. “(B) Definition of work activities.–For purposes of subparagraph (A), the term `work activities’ has the same meaning as provided under subsection (d) of section 407 of the Social Security Act, except that such activities shall not include job searching, as described in paragraph (6) of such subsection.”. (b) Effective Date.– (1) In general.–Except as provided in paragraph (2), the amendments made by this section shall take effect on the date that is 6 months after the date of the enactment of this Act. (2) Delay permitted if state legislation required.–In the case of a State which the Secretary of Labor determines requires State legislation (other than legislation appropriating funds) in order for the State law to meet the additional requirements imposed by the amendments made by subsection (a), the State law shall not be regarded as failing to comply with the requirements of section 3304(a)(19) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as added by such amendments, solely on the basis of the failure of the State law to meet such additional requirements before the 1st day of the 1st calendar quarter beginning after the close of the 1st regular session of the State legislature that begins after the date of the enactment of this Act. For purposes of the previous sentence, in the case of a State that has a 2- year legislative session, each year of such session shall be deemed to be a separate regular session of the State legislature.

  • William Finnigan

    um if we have to work to receive unemployment then wouldnt we be employed thus negating being able to get unemployment?

    • Panacea

      No, it means that after such an extended period of time, you should make some attempt to repay your neighbors who are supporting you through their taxes. It can also help to alleviate the depression that most people feel when out of work by giving them a useful activity.

      • William Finnigan

        yeah so youre saying do WORK for the community to be able to get PAID unemployment. Work for pay sounds an awful like a job which brings us back to my original point. if we are required to do work to get paid then that is a job and thus we are no longer unemployed how do we continue to collect unemployment or will we be getting an actual paycheck from the govt? do you understand what im trying to say? if were required to do work to get paid our benefits then its a job. If its a job then we shouldnt be collecting unemployment but getting an actual paycheck

  • Sun Jul

    So, the people who are unemployed because funding cuts ended their jobs as street cleaners, park attendants, librarians, teacher aids, museum docents, etc., will now have to volunteer at community jobs in order to get unemployment? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to simply restore funding to community services?

  • erick

    I would like to do work in my trade as community service. I work in the heavy industrial construction field, and with a long absence from practicing my trade I find my skills deteriorating. 50% of the water supply piping in the nation needs replacement. I would love to work on its repair or replacement. I hold a university degree, and 2 journeyman licenses. When I apply and interview for jobs I am told that I can not be hired because I am over qualified. What type of community service should be required for corporations that received 50 billion in tax breaks? What type of community service should be required for wall street banks that received 7.7 trillion dollars in the toxic asset relief program?


    When will the senate finally pass the much needed unemployment extension bill in the senate, for the more than two million families that were affected by the loss of benefits late last December? For more than four months now, the Republican senate has dragged their feet, and has made delay after delay to postpone passing the bill, in the hopes of making it just go away. In the mean time, these millions of families have been ruined financially, having been evicted from their homes, having their homes foreclosed upon, having to file personal bankruptcy, and being made homeless. These workers had worked many years in their jobs, and have paid into the system, believing help would be there for them if ever they needed it. However, they’ve been made to feel like social leaches, and social parasites, for asking for what they’ve already paid into from their weekly pay. While the congress quickly passed a foreign aid package for the Ukraine, worth billions of tax payer’s dollars, nothing has been passed to help these struggling families on a total verge of economical collapse, facing homelessness for lack of income to pay their living expenses. These millions of families have been used my the political parties as “political leverage”, and as “bargaining chips” to further one another’s political agendas. These people are not lazy or unwilling to work. The majority are older Americans with families to support, and mortgages to pay. These people have worked all of their lives and just happen to find themselves in one of the worst recessions in many years. How can the Republican party claim to represent “family values”, while making every effort to kill the extension bill that would help these families in the senate? I hope that the American people will have our own ” American Spring” like in other countries, and take back our country from these self-promoting, self-righteous, ego=filled, career politicians. We need to bring back the ” public servant” back into fashion once again. These politicians in Washington have totally become out of touch with common people which makes up 99 percent of this country. Shame on the Republicans for causing so much grief and pain to these millions of families without unemployment benefits. The American voters will not forget that in the 2016 elections

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