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Statement on Signing the Employment Security Amendments of 1970.

August 10, 1970

TODAY I am signing into law a bill that includes most of my proposals for the most significant improvements in the unemployment insurance program since passage of the original legislation in 1935.

This historic bill which I sent to the Congress more than 12 months ago will:

(1) Expand coverage more than any previous bill;

(2) Introduce an innovative program of extended benefits in times of high unemployment; and

(3) Improve the financing and administration of the unemployment insurance program

The extension of insurance coverage to 4.8 million additional workers is an example of this administration's dedication to helping the American workingman-including the poor and the minority worker. The new coverage will include employees in State hospitals and universities, small businesses, and nonprofit institutions in jobs which tend to have low wages and unstable employment. The increased security of unemployment insurance coverage is a distinct benefit for these workers.

Unfortunately, the Congress did not respond to my call for extension of coverage to workers on large commercial farms. These farm workers deserve this added protection, and it is my intention to resubmit legislation to help them gain this objective. At the same time, I hope individual States will, on their own initiative, extend coverage to these agricultural workers.

I sign this legislation with pride since it represents a prime example of this administration's commitment to recognizing problems in advance, and to offering solutions which can be considered in a rational and orderly manner--rather than in a crisis atmosphere.

This philosophy is best indicated in the bill's provision of permanent authority for States to extend unemployment benefits up to 13 additional weeks in times of high unemployment. Similar provisions were enacted in 1958 and 1961, but only on a temporary basis. In each instance the delay in congressional action caused hardships which could have been avoided if the automatic "triggers" included in the present bill had been in effect.

The extended benefits provision will greatly increase the economic stabilizing features of unemployment insurance, since it authorizes automatic increases in the duration of weekly benefits paid during periods of extended unemployment. I, therefore, call on all States to make the changes in their own unemployment insurance laws which are necessary to take advantage of this new law as soon as possible.

Similarly, I would like to renew my call for the States to increase the maximum benefits available to workers. Since I first voiced my concern over a year ago about the inadequacy of benefits--particularly for family breadwinners--there has been some progress. However, maximums are still too low to provide adequate benefits for the great majority of workers and more rapid progress is required.

This legislation represents the best kind of insurance--insurance that is now more comprehensive and substantial, but which, by virtue of its presence, is less likely to be needed.

As we move away from a wartime economy toward a peacetime economy, we have as our goal high employment without the kind of runaway inflation that cheats the worker out of his pay increases.

Even in this period of transition to a healthy consumer economy, we must counter the kind of unemployment--and its effects--that was considered normal in the early sixties.

This new unemployment insurance law that I sign today is also one more bulwark against the possibility of any future downturn, and strong evidence that this Nation will not permit the burden of the fight against the high cost of living to fall on the American workingman.

The reform of the unemployment insurance system is an essential element of the administration's broader, government wide effort to reform all programs which provide direct payments to individuals to meet their basic needs on an equitable and dignified basis. Besides unemployment insurance, which is an earned benefit, all of the programs of the Federal Government that come under the general heading of income maintenance--social security, welfare, housing subsidies, food stamps, and also our tax laws--need to be viewed as an interrelated system.

Payments of unemployment compensation are $3 billion annually. This important reform of the unemployment insurance system, which I sign into law today, has been carefully developed to provide employment security, equity, and dignity for the workingman throughout his working life.

Richard Nixon, Statement on Signing the Employment Security Amendments of 1970. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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