President Barack Obama’s $3.99 trillion fiscal 2016 budget proposal echoes and expands on much of what he presented during his State of the Union address last month, from expanding sick leave to enhancing training and providing some free access to community colleges.

“These proposals will help working families feel more secure with paychecks that go further, help American workers upgrade their skills so they can compete for higher-paying jobs, and help create the conditions for our businesses to keep generating good new jobs for our workers to fill,” he said Monday in a letter to Congress.

One notable interest included in this year’s budget is the increase in unemployment insurance. The current extended benefits program — which provides up to 20 additional weeks of benefits in states with high and rising unemployment — does not provide sufficient help during recessions because it provides too few weeks of additional benefits and its triggers, according to the budget proposal.

Also see: Obama: Health coverage critical for middle class

As a result, Congress passes ad hoc emergency UI programs that Obama says begin too late to provide the early stimulus that could lessen the severity of a recession. His budget proposes to create a new permanent, federally funded EB program that would respond quickly when state unemployment rates rise, and provide more robust federal assistance. This program would provide up to 52 weeks of additional federally funded benefits for job seekers, with the greatest number of weeks in states with higher unemployment rates.

Under the proposal, 13 weeks of additional benefits would be provided each time a state hits certain unemployment rates — specifically at 6.5%, 7.5%, 8.5% and 9.5%.

Future planning

In addition to the UI changes, Obama’s budget proposal also hones in on retirement preparedness, offering a variety of ways employees can be better prepared. Those range from auto enrollment features of IRAs to having employers offer retirement options to their long-term, part-time employees.

For the part-time employee, the budget would require employees work 500 hours per year for at least three years to be eligible for a workplace retirement plan. While employers would not be required to match any contributions, the White House notes this would provide retirement options for close to 1 million individuals without any current access to plans.

Also see: A move towards ending the looming retirement crisis

And while proposals have been floated on auto-enrolling employees into IRAs if an employer had no 401(k) options, concerns on conflicting federal laws that govern employee benefit plans slowed those efforts.

“To better support state efforts, the budget provides $6.5 million to the Department of Labor, along with waiver authority, to allow a limited number of states to implement state-based automatic enrollment IRAs or 401(k)-type programs,” according to the budget documents.

Also see: Obama’s sick leave mandate called ‘wrong approach’

“President Obama’s budget proposal contains sensible solutions for expanding access to retirement plans, such as auto-IRAs, for American workers who do not have a workplace plan available to them,” said Cathy Weatherford, CEO and president of the Insured Retirement Institute. “Policies like this can go a long way toward helping Americans plan for their future financial security.”

Lauding Obama’s efforts, Weatherford encourage lawmakers to explore additional measures to increase the effectiveness of these initiatives, including the expansion of auto-enrollment and auto-escalation features in their existing retirement offerings.

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