The Biden administration will appoint unemployment insurance guru Michele Evermore to a newly created role at the U.S. Labor Department to address the significant uptick in claims for jobless benefits due to the pandemic.
Evermore, currently a senior policy analyst at the left-leaning National Employment Law Project, will soon begin work as a DOL senior policy adviser on unemployment insurance, a position within the department’s Employment and Training Administration, according to three people briefed on the hire. The sources requested anonymity because they didn’t have approval to discuss personnel matters.
Evermore will join the administration after being a constant voice this past year in media articles and on Capitol Hill calling for Congress, DOL, and state agencies to provide expanded benefits payments to a wider pool of Americans unable to work amid the pandemic-induced downturn.
While the precise portfolio she will take on at DOL is unclear, her selection sends a signal that the Biden administration may be looking to close gaps in jobless aid coverage and assume a more proactive role in assisting states that have been struggling to efficiently pay claims over the past 11 months.
The latest data DOL released Thursday showed initial filings for state unemployment programs decreased to 793,000 in the week ending Feb. 6, a decline of 19,000 claims. The number of claims for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers independent contractors, rose to 8.7 million in the week ending Jan. 23, an increase of 1.5 million.
Evermore would likely play a role in implementing President Joe Biden’s Jan. 22 directive for DOL to consider issuing guidance to clarify that “workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will jeopardize their health” and still qualify for unemployment benefits.
A former DOL legislative officer during the Obama administration, Evermore may also be called upon to coordinate with lawmakers in efforts to extend expanded benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which Congress created in March to provide benefits for workers who aren’t typically eligible for traditional unemployment insurance. Both initiatives are due to expire March 14.
Evermore declined to comment, and DOL media representatives didn’t immediately comment when asked about her selection.
Backs Boosted Benefits
In her role at NELP, Evermore has routinely called for policies that smooth payment processing for claimants, particularly people from vulnerable demographics, such as women workers of color. She has rejected concerns that overly generous benefits—including the $600 weekly supplement that expired last summer—disincentivize people from resuming work, an argument the business community and Republican lawmakers have consistently made to fight extending a higher level of weekly assistance.
Prior to joining NELP in 2018, Evermore was a legislative advocate for unions, including Service Employees International Union District 1199 New England and National Nurses United, and also an aide to Democratic members of Congress.
DOL’s Employment and Training Administration oversees the federal-state unemployment insurance system; it has provided routine guidance to states on which workers are eligible under changing laws enacted in response to Covid-19.