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House GOP Offers Sweeping Unemployment Reforms

If that average held true in Illinois, where it costs $50 to take the GED once, it could cost $5.3 million just for those projected people to take the exam — or more than five times the state's annual allotted budget. This does not include course fees, or the $10 to $15 it costs to retake each of the GED's five sections if an applicant fails.

The legislative text of Friday's bill does offer an opt-out provision for people or states that find the mandate "unduly burdensome."

"We are creating an expectation that states must do something to help individuals most in need of additional education and training, while leaving them significant flexibility in how that is actually implemented, whether now or when state budgets are in better shape," said a House GOP aide familiar with the bill.

But with many states facing budget crises, it's unclear how many would be equipped to uphold the new education standards.

The House-proposed legislation also includes provisions aimed at increasing state authority to evaluate and implement their own reforms, reforming the administration of benefits and allowing states, "if they desire," to perform drug testing on applicants as a condition of providing benefits.

The current form of the package is unlikely to clear the Senate, where Democratic sources indicate the legislation as a whole — especially because of policy riders such as one regarding the the Keystone XL pipeline — is a non-starter. Republican sources had suggested earlier in the week, even before the legislation was unveiled, that Congress did not have the kind of time it would take to implement widespread change to the UI system.

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