What are the broader benefits of unemployment insurance?

Unemployment Insurance (UI) is one of the most efficient anti-recession programs, because benefits are almost entirely spent on immediate basic needs. Because the money received from UI is spent so spent so quickly rather than being saved, it actually boosts the economy. Each dollar of UI benefits produces well over a dollar of economic activity for the nation as a whole. And that extra economic activity ultimately creates thousands of jobs through increased demand.

Just as importantly, UI directly helps prevent foreclosures, evictions, and people falling into poverty. The UI provisions in the December 2020 relief bill, which added $300 per week to benefits and expanded eligibility by extending the PUA and PEUC programs, were projected to keep more than 7 million people out of poverty, and that’s despite not all those who are eligible for UI actually receiving benefits. Actually receiving UI was also associated with better mental health and less delay of seeking health care. Additionally, during a pandemic, it is desirable and necessary for people to stay home to prevent spread of the disease. Without UI, millions more would be forced to go out and work in order to be able to afford basic necessities like foo