Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Improving UI to better help victims

The month of October is designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month, where we come together to mourn those who have lost their lives to domestic abuse and recognize the incredible strength and resilience of victims of domestic violence.

Last week we released a report – Making Unemployment Work for Montana Workers. You may wonder what UI has to do with domestic violence. As we mentioned last week in our wonky word Wednesday on Unemployment Insurance (UI), not all Montana’s unemployed workers receive UI. In order to qualify, an individual must have lost a job through no fault of her own. Fortunately, Montana’s UI program covers an employee who left work or was discharged as a result of being a victim of domestic or sexual violence or because of an attempt to protect oneself or a child from domestic abuse. The law can be found here.

This is an important part of Montana law because it ensures victims of domestic violence are not precluded from accessing unemployment insurance in instances where they need to leave the job to protect their own safety and their children’s safety. UI gives victims a bit of security knowing that some income is coming in as they get back on their feet. However, much more can be done. Unfortunately, the state legislature limits the amount of time a victim can receive UI to no more than 10 weeks, compared to the full 28 weeks that others receive. There is no public policy reason for this disparity in benefits. As our recent UI paper points out, the legislature should consider being parity among these benefits.

The Montana Budget and Policy Center, together with our friends at the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, continue to look for ways to build upon the work happening all across the country to end violence against women and their children and develop policies to help victims achieve economic stability and independence.

If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. To file for Unemployment Insurance, you can do so online at uid.dli.mt.gov.

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