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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Going Backwards: Just Let Us Keep the 99 Weeks!

A few months ago, the biggest fight for the long-term unemployed was focused on attempts to get more than 99 weeks of unemployment compensation during this miserable "Jobless Recovery".  

Getting the 99 weeks reauthorized was daunting throughout all of 2010, with several gaps in coverage while the Democratic-led Congress tried to hammer out agreements with the Republicans.  Finally, however, a bill was passed guaranteeing 99 weeks of coverage through the calendar year of 2011. 

And now things have switched gears and we are going backwards.

The TeaParty legacy

The Republicans who were elected (for some unknown reason) by middle class people (while many who would have voted Democratic stayed home) are bound and determined to roll back the number of weeks "those lazy unemployed people keep eating at the public trough".  Unfortunately, many Republicans and many of their middle class supporters have somehow bought the story that there are jobs out there, and anyone can get a job if he or she really wants one and is willing to work for minimum wage.  (Hey, Unemployed, take any job!) 

Many believe that unemployment compensation keeps people from getting jobs, despite overwhelming evidence that many people who run out of unemployment compensation still can't find jobs and that people entering or re-entering the labor force, people who aren't collecting benefits, can't find jobs either!

But along come states like Michigan and Florida, and they are passing laws reducing the number of states' weeks of unemployment.  They are crying "broke!" which indeed many are after years of giving tax write-offs to companies who relocate to their states.  

Florida's Bill is very punitive.  

Florida's House voted two weeks ago.  We can complain all we want about the Democrats, but most of these attempts to cut unemployment benefits or avoid extending benefits fall along party lines:  Republicans support these kinds of measures, Democrats oppose them.
Republican legislators argued that cuts are necessary to protect Florida's business climate from rising unemployment insurance costs. Doug Holder, a Republican representative from Sarasota said: 
"HB 7005 is the first step of many to create an infrastructure that encourages other companies to move to Florida," said Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, who sponsored the bill. "It sends a resounding message to the business that Florida is the place to be and is quickly becoming the most business-friendly state in the country."
The really disturbing thing is that Republicans, not just in Florida but in most places, actually believe this, and many have been really effective in convincing middle class people (Tea Party people) that they are right.  

The Florida Democrats have made these intelligent comments:
Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, said the bill was being called "mean-spirited" toward Florida's middle- and lower-class jobless individuals. "Why are we punishing them? Why are we making it more difficult for them to feed their families?"
Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, said the bill will create more homelessness in the state. "At this time, with an unemployment rate of nearly 12 percent, why would we want to make it harder for unemployed Floridians to survive?"
Why indeed?  And that's right; Florida's unemployment rate is still 12%!

And if the 20 weeks weren't bad enough:
Under the legislation, benefits would be tied to the unemployment rate, going as low as 12 weeks when the rate falls to 5 percent or below, with a week added when the rate increases by 0.5 percent, with a cap at 20 weeks.
Twelve weeks?  Even in good times, that's barely enough time to find a job, apply to it, and go through today's long interviewing, hiring, and "background checking" process.  

It doesn't appear that Florida's Senate has yet passed this law, so there are a few more hurdles before the punishment of Florida's workers is complete.  

What will be the result of these kinds of punitive laws?  People with any capacities or any options just might leave Florida.  I read recently that twenty percent of Florida homes are now empty.  This legislation won't help that one bit.

Michigan:  Waiting for the Bagger Gov.

In Michigan, the state legislature, both houses, has passed a similar law, which Arthur Delaney reports for the Huffington Post.  It was a "compromise" which keeps the total number of unemployment weeks as they were.. until January 2012.       

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) commented:
(called the deal) "shockingly harsh, reckless and cynical." NELP is encouraging Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to veto the legislation, which would make Michigan the first state to reduce benefits to 20 weeks from 26 weeks.
“The ball is in the governor’s court,” NELP director Christine Owens said in a statement. “So far, Governor Snyder has said he’s avoiding overtly anti-worker tactics employed in neighboring states. Signing this bill would certainly undermine that assertion. We urge Governor Snyder to exercise his independent judgment, do the right thing for all of Michigan’s workers and the state’s economy, and veto this bill.
Good luck with that, Christine, NELP, and all of Michigan.

Which other states out there are preparing to lower the boom on the unemployed?


  1. I see that you have not had any comments to your posts so your ideas have not been challenged or redirected. Please look into how those extra weeks of unemployment get paid and you will find a clue as to why companies have been unable to hire new employees. Why those who would like to fix the economy would vote against extending unemployment benefits.

  2. Hi Anonymous.. Thanks for leaving a comment.

    My ideas are regularly challenged, as I post all over the place.

    Unless you have some information to the contrary, this is how unemployment insurance is collected:

    "Currently, employers pay federal unemployment taxes of 6.2 percent on the first $7,000 earned by each of their employees during a calendar year. These federal taxes are used to cover the costs of administering the UC programs in all states. In addition, the federal UC taxes pay one-half of the cost of extended unemployment benefits (during periods of high unemployment) and provide for a fund from which states may borrow, if necessary, to pay benefits.

    State UC tax rates vary from state-to-state. State UC taxes may be used only to pay benefits to unemployed workers. The state UC tax rate paid by employers is based on the state's current unemployment rate. As their unemployment rates go up, the states are required by federal law to raise the UC tax rate paid by employers."

    So I hope you will drop back and explain your statement that "companies have been unable to hire new employees" and what that has to do with how long a state offers unemployment benefits.

    In prior administrations and in this one, extended fed unemployment benefits have been paid either out of emergency funds or through the ARRA recovery act.

    Any further links or info would be appreciated.


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