The Century Foundation (TCF) announced today that Michele Evermore, one of the nation’s leading experts on unemployment insurance (UI) and social safety net programs, is joining the think tank as a senior fellow. She joins TCF from the U.S. Department of Labor, having served as Deputy Director for Policy in the newly formed Office of Unemployment Insurance Modernization, a position that former TCF senior fellow Andrew Stettner assumed weeks ago.
Evermore was a central figure in the federal government’s historic expansion of unemployment aid during the COVID-19 pandemic, both from within the Biden administration and in her previous role at the National Employment Law Project, where she worked from 2018 to 2021. Her research, advocacy, and commentary were instrumental in pushing Congress to expand access to benefits and increase the duration and generosity of benefits during the pandemic—changes that kept some five million people out of poverty in 2020, studies suggest.
“For workers who lose their job and fall on hard times, there is no better advocate in their corner than Michele Evermore,” said Mark Zuckerman, President of The Century Foundation and former Deputy Director of President Obama’s Domestic Policy Council. “Her research and advocacy prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with her recent service in the Biden administration, literally improved the lives of millions of Americans. TCF is thrilled to have her join the team as we continue fighting for badly needed reforms to the nation’s unemployment insurance system.”
While at DOL, Evermore spearheaded efforts to improve the delivery of UI benefits in a timely and accurate manner and ensure equitable access for underserved communities. She represented those efforts in front of Congress, with the press, and through technical assistance to states. At NELP, her work to build a more inclusive and robust UI system led to the successful passage and implementation of historic protections for unemployment workers.
“Our national response to the COVID-19 unemployment epidemic was, by and large, a huge success thanks to the swift actions of the federal government. But we cannot forget that such action was necessary because our day-to-day UI system is inadequate, antiquated, and simply doesn’t work for most unemployed workers,” said TCF senior fellow Michele Evermore. “There’s no better place to work on unemployment policy than The Century Foundation, and it’s an honor to join the team to continue fighting for a modern unemployment system that is inclusive, sufficient, and durable.”
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the economy-preserving value of robust unemployment insurance programs, helping to hasten a “v-shaped” recovery that was more dramatic than anyone anticipated. Expanded UI programs, which delivered to more than 45 million workers, were estimated to increase overall GDP by 1.1 percent and boost consumer spending among recipients by 20 percent. Increased benefits also disproportionately helped Black households, reducing their poverty rate by 2.4 percentage points, compared to 1.4 percentage points overall. Yet the system today, with its threadbare level of support available through state programs, is unprepared for a future economic downturn following the expiration of federal pandemic programs.
Recent research from TCF found that, after reaching three out of four jobless workers during the pandemic, only 26.8 percent of jobless workers today are receiving benefits—a near-record low (as of August 2022). Furthermore, UI aid only replaces 39 percent of prior wages ($347/week on average, Q1 2022), down from 79 percent a year ago ($617/week average, as of May 2021). And only 15 states met the federal requirement to pay out a majority of eligible UI claims within 21 days (as of Aug 2022). Both at the height of the pandemic and today, state UI systems continue to fuel racial inequality, as workers of color are less likely to receive benefits and receive benefits that are lower, on average.
Prior to NELP, Evermore promoted worker rights as a legislative advocate for labor unions, including the Service Employees International Union District 1199 and the National Nurses United, and worked for the Obama administration’s Department of Labor as a senior legislative officer. Prior to that, she worked in Congress for a decade, primarily for then-Senator Tom Harkin, as well as for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. In those roles, she worked to advance worker protections, organizing rights, and improving retirement security in a variety of private pension plan designs, as well as Social Security.
Michele has testified before Congress several times and is frequently quoted in major news outlets outlets, including the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Good Morning America, NPR, Marketplace, Associated Press, Reuters, and USA Today, as well as many large regional newspapers, radio shows, and television news. She holds a MS in Labor Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a BA from Iowa State University.