by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security, 
National Women's Law Center 

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley just signed legislation expanding unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for part-time workers – two-thirds of whom are women. In contrast, the Virginia legislature voted last week to reject reforms that would have allowed part-time workers to qualify for unemployment benefits and provided benefits for workers in training programs. By rejecting the reforms, Virginia also gave up $125 million in federal funds made available to states by the economic recovery act to encourage UI reforms.

Fortunately, Maryland is not alone. Other states have figured out that by modernizing their UI systems, they can alleviate hardship for jobless workers, especially women, and boost their economies. The National Employment Law Project reports that since the economic recovery act was passed in February, reforms have been signed into law in six states (not including Maryland), and are advancing in dozens more.

But that’s not much comfort for workers in Virginia.