An effective unemployment-insurance system plays an essential role in a healthy economy. It helps people get by when they lose jobs. It improves productivity by supporting workers while they find the best match for their skills. It mitigates recessions by maintaining consumers’ spending power. It’s not a handout; it’s something people should be encouraged to use as quickly as possible when trouble hits.

Amid the coronavirus crisis, millions of Americans have encountered something very different. Instead of receiving timely benefits, they’ve spent weeks waiting in epic lines, battling glitchy websites and navigating bureaucracies that in some cases were designed to keep them out. Their struggles demonstrate just how far the U.S. system has fallen, and how overdue it is for reform.

A version of this editorial first appeared in Bloomberg.