Monday, March 02, 2009

Will Republican Jobless Remember Who is Denying Them Benefits?

Our Guv Goodhair Perry made the New York Times today as someone starting to feel the ire of the unemployed. Perry is representative of some governors trying not to take federal money to give to the unemployed because you know this economic situation and their lack of a good job is all their fault. As the job losses move up the food chain will those formerly comfy Republicans remember why they can't get unemployment benefits in Texas?

Jobless Angry at Possibility of No Benefits.
The stimulus bill recently passed by Congress includes incentives to states to expand benefits to many more jobless people, including part-time workers and those who have cycled in and out of the work force, who are not covered in many states.

The Republican governors of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas, along with Alaska and Idaho, have raised protests, saying that expansion could eventually require them to raise taxes.

For people like Henry Kight, 59, of Austin, Tex., the possibility that the money might be turned down is a deeply personal issue.

Mr. Kight, who worked for more than three decades as an engineering technician, discovered in September that because of complex state rules, he was not eligible for unemployment insurance after losing a job at a major electronics manufacturer he had landed at the beginning of the year.

Unable to draw jobless benefits, he and his wife have taken on thousands of dollars in credit-card debt to help make ends meet.

It is precisely these kind of regulations, involving such matters as the length of a person’s work history or reason for leaving a job, that the federal government is trying to get the states to change. Such a move could extend benefits to an estimated half-million more people, according to the National Employment Law Project, a liberal group in New York that supports the changes.

The anger at the governors’ positions goes beyond just the unemployed workers who could directly benefit from the changes. Because eligibility rules for unemployment insurance are complicated and vary by state, many unemployed people do not even know whether they would be affected.


rjnagle said...

Wow, thanks for catching this! My job was downsized recently to 2 days a week (maybe 1 day), and that makes me ineligible. The article says:

To be eligible for the other two-thirds of the money set aside for unemployment benefits, states would have to provide benefits to at least two of these four groups of unemployed people: those only available to work part-time; workers who left their jobs for a compelling family reason, like a spouse moving to take another job, to take care of a sick child, or in cases of domestic violence; workers with dependent children seeking additional benefits; and workers who need additional benefits to last them through re-training.

When I was seriously unemployed in 2002, I was denied unemployment insurance when a temp agency claimed I had "quit" (which was not the case at all). I realized there were a lot of exceptions that allowed unemployment insurance to end, providing perverse incentives to work no hours instead of working part time. This badly needs reforming, and frankly I'm surprised state governors don't see that.

As stated, it seems like the proposed reforms are reasonable and flexible.

Gary said...

You should always contest a denial of benefits claim. It is common practice for companies in Texas to claim workers were fired for cause or quit instead of being laid off in hopes of keeping their unemployment tax costs low. In my experience the staffers at the Texas Work Force Commission know this and are inclined to believe the workers.