The Federal Emergency Management Agency is considering the idea of issuing temporary unemployment benefits to some of the nearly 7 million people who applied for them.
The federal agency said Wednesday that the program, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), could help those who have been out of work for long periods of time.
It’s not clear whether the agency will pursue the idea in the coming months.
“It’s a really important way for people to get some relief,” said Rob Wood, the acting assistant secretary for the Office of Economic Opportunity.
He said the agency would be considering a “workfare program” in the next few months.
The agency estimates that some 9 million Americans have been laid off or underemployed since the start of the recession, including about 5 million who have received benefits.
The U.S. has seen some of its largest job losses since the Great Recession.
The unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in December, the lowest level since December 2009.
The Labor Department reported Wednesday that employment gains slowed in December and January.
But overall, the economy added 153,000 jobs in January, the third straight month of gains.
About 18.4 million Americans are still unemployed, and many more are underemicized, meaning they’re still trying to find work, according to the Labor Department.
The number of people who have a job but want more is at its highest point since December, according the Labor Center.
More than a million people have applied for unemployment benefits since the beginning of the year, according a report by the nonprofit Employment Policies Institute.
Wood said that the agency is considering how to administer the program.
“This is a really, really big deal,” he said.
The idea of distributing temporary unemployment compensation to millions of Americans comes as President Donald Trump has urged Republicans to pass a $1.9 trillion tax overhaul, which he says would be the biggest tax cut in history.
The GOP has proposed eliminating the estate tax, which levies a 25 percent tax on estates worth more than $5.45 million.
Wood told reporters that the idea would be “really interesting.”
The program is also being considered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has seen its number of veteran suicides spike.
That program would provide up to $1,000 in disability benefits to veterans who had not been able to find full-time work because of injury or other reasons.