Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Unemployment Benefits Benefit Everyone


By Emily Eisenhauer

Several bills before the Florida Legislature seek to make it harder for those who are out of work through no fault of their own to get unemployment compensation. Community service requirements, mandatory drug testing, and limiting the number of weeks all seem to be based on the idea that people who are getting benefits don’t deserve them or are not looking hard enough for a job. But in this economy, that doesn’t make sense, and these proposals will make it harder for the system to do its job.

Florida lost almost a million jobs in the recession that began in late 2007, and over 1.1. million people remain unemployed in the state. Last year, 2010, was better, in that the state added 43,500 jobs. But that just means for every job added, there were still 25 people looking for work. Right now almost half of the people out of work have been looking for a job for over 6 months, and over one-third have been looking for more than a year. In recent weeks the media have covered many stories of people who have been applying for any job they can find, and still coming up empty.

Florida already has one of the strictest unemployment compensation systems in the country. In any given week between 15 and 20% of people who submit claims are rejected by the state for not providing sufficient proof of work search or other eligibility reasons. Florida has the fourth lowest maximum weekly benefit in the country - $275 – with an average weekly payment of $230. That means that on average unemployment benefits replace about 38% of a worker’s previous salary. It’s hard to imagine that people surviving on 38% of their salary wouldn’t be out doing everything they can to get a new job.

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