By Warren Yoder

Just when we need it the most, thousands of Mississippi workers are being denied unemployment benefits because of a broken, outdated system. When the national unemployment system was created in 1935, the work force was made up predominately of full-time, male workers. Today, that work force includes more part-time and female workers. Although America’s economy has changed, our state unemployment insurance system has not. This spring, fewer than 4 of 10 Mississippi workers qualified for unemployment benefits.

Because of the base period the state uses to consider eligibility, workers can have up to six months of their most recent earnings excluded when determining eligibility for unemployment benefits. This rule disproportionately hurts low-wage workers, because monetary qualification is based on earnings during the base period. A Mississippian can work more than other employees, yet not receive unemployment benefits simply because they are paid less. This is one of the reasons low-wage workers are half as likely as higher wage workers to receive unemployment benefits.