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Monday, December 30, 2013

Brookings: Extending jobless benefits is the right thing to do


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tell Congress to restore unemployment insurance

Please add your name to this Organizing for Action petition on behalf of the 99ers and all long-term unemployed:

Because Congress failed to act, 1.3 million Americans will lose their unemployment insurance, and millions more will be at risk in the coming months.

Tell Congress the first thing on their plate when they return to Washington needs to be restoring these benefits to the people who need them most.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Guest Post: Where are the jobs?

Cross-posted with the author's kind permission from the Shortcomment blog:

To all of you holier-than-thou, not-yet-unemployed people who treat the unemployed like we’re on vacation:

Do you even think about what you’re saying? It’s really easy to talk big when you have a job, isn’t it?

Why does every not-unemployed person assume that all unemployed people should just suck it up and take jobs as manual laborers or fast-food counter jockeys? What about our wealth of experience, (expensive) education, and professional knowledge?

Should our collective brains become a puddle of goo so we can mow your lawn for you for five bucks or make you a Big Mac for $7.25 an hour? Should we be prostitutes and gigolos, too?

I’ll be damned if I go back to the job and wage I had as a 16-year-old in the 1970s. I didn’t get a college degree and amass 30-plus years of professional experience to go that far backwards. Those of you who suggest otherwise are out of your minds. Get real. They aren’t hiring people like us for jobs like that anyway. They know we’re way overqualified, and they won’t pay us anything close to a livable wage.

Do you expect me and my fellow unemployed citizens to PERMANENTLY accept jobs that are low-paying, low-quality, low-everything? Is that the solution? Should we all live on the street – YOUR street – because we want to do work in the field we’re trained, educated, and knowledgeable in, rather than accept a menial position that requires NO skill, NO education, has NO future or advancement opportunity, and pays at most about 1/3 of what we made previously?

That’s no way to live.

Let’s try some common sense for a change, shall we?

I was laid off in February, 2010, from an amazing job as an editorial manager and writer for a brain fitness company. I’m highly educated, I’ve got great reference letters, and an impressive résumé. I’m even a member of Mensa. I’ve been searching desperately for full-time writing, editing or managing work since the day I lost my job, and I’ve had no success.

When I was receiving UI benefits (that meager source of income ended over a year ago), I was required to search for full-time work in my usual occupation, so don’t tell me I should have been looking for temporary or contract work. I’m doing that now, and it’s as fruitless as it was three years ago. And yes, I expanded my search to cover anything remotely connected to anything I’ve ever done, including copywriter, editor, manager, travel agent, salesman and much more.

With the new online, faceless, nameless world of job ads, applications, and emails, I’m lucky if I even get a “we received your application” note. Forget about a phone call, a meeting or an interview. I use employment agencies, creative agencies, online sites, résumé sites, and more. Even craigslist, for what that’s worth. Doesn’t matter. I’m either overqualified, too old (49), or have made too much in the past (since when is $45,000 “too much?”) to be offered a job for $10/hour. I can’t make ends meet writing articles for 3 cents a word (if that), and last I checked, unpaid internships (which are usually illegal anyway) are all unpaid. But I still search, every day, seven days a week, and although I used to believe something would turn up eventually, I’m not so sure anymore. I’m incredibly discouraged, but I’m not giving up. Yet.

Unfortunately, the economy is still shaky at best (thanks, GOP), and the “job creators” are too busy counting their stacks of money to be bothered with creating jobs. There are no employers begging for workers, at least not here in southern California. And no, moving isn’t an option for us, or for most unemployed people. It’s not free to move, my wife still has a job (should we both be unemployed so I can find work?), and our rent is thankfully fairly low. How would we get an apartment in a different state with no jobs, no income and no money for a security deposit? We’re not moving somewhere else to put us in a worse position than we’re in now! It’s as if some of you who aren’t unemployed believe in the Move-And-Find-A-Job Fairy – you just snap your fingers and *poof!* – you’re in a new state with a new home and new job, and everything’s just peachy keen!

Life doesn’t work like that.

What if every unemployed person just moved to another state to find a job, because “that’s where the jobs are?” Sadly, jobs are few and far between, and chasing one’s tail around the country is about as inefficient and unproductive as it gets.

The only winners would be moving companies. Maybe they’re hiring.

I’ll stay here, keep searching, and maybe before I die I’ll be a productive member of society once again with a job that’s important, challenging, and rewarding. Or maybe not. I’m not getting younger or more employable.

No, I’m not “too good” to do anything, but I won’t be used or taken advantage of either. I have more to offer society than spatula or mopping skills, and I shouldn’t have to settle for a job that will keep me below the poverty level forever just because I got unlucky and got laid off from a good job. I deserve the opportunity to find a REAL job that matches my skills and experience and pays a fair wage. To steal that opportunity from me because YOU think I’m lazy, or I’m unwilling or unable to take a manual labor job, or because it’s taking so damn long to find work because good jobs are so scarce, or because YOU think I think I’m “too good” to flip burgers is impatient, short-sighted, and destructive to society. The job market sucks, and it’s going to take time to recover. That’s why UI extensions and middle-class tax cuts are necessary!

Will America thrive and prosper and grow by putting our best and brightest – but unluckiest – to work mopping floors, washing windows, or cleaning stables? Even if the local Burger King is hiring, it’s ludicrous to think that every educated, qualified professional should make milkshakes for minimum wage instead of seeking actual employment that pays a wage one can live on. That’s not how the economy grows, and it’s a waste of talent and brainpower. Taking a crappy job is not going to fix either my world or the economy in general. There aren’t enough burger joints in the world anyway to employ all the “lazy, unmotivated, entitled hobos” – er, I mean unemployed, no matter what the Tea Party & GOP might want you to believe.

To all those who think it’s so damn easy to find a job, or think any unemployed person should take ANY job that’s offered: QUIT YOUR JOB AND GIVE IT A TRY!

Now, shut up and get back to work. And be damn glad you have work to go back to.

To the employed, the unemployed, and the “job creators”:

From outsourcing to tax cuts, we’re going nowhere as a country until the economy is back. So what does the GOP do to help? First, they reluctantly – and barely – agreed to extend UI two years ago, tossing it to us like table scraps tossed at a dog. “Here you go, boy. Now shut up and get away from OUR table.” Then, last year, they took away UI extensions from those who desperately need it, while fighting tooth-and-nail to keep an obscene $700 BILLION in tax cuts for the super-wealthy. That’s OK, though, it only costs us $3,000 per person (not per family) to keep those fat wallets bulging, which the unemployed can easily afford to part with. It’s not like we need that money for food, shelter, utilities, or anything else. Oh, yeah, those tax cuts mean we have to pay the Chinese more interest, too. The greed of the rich at the extraordinary expense of the middle and lower working class is sending this economy and this country downhill at a rolling snowball’s pace.

The tax cut “compromise” of 2010 was a disaster. The GOP’s $700 billion “gift-for-the-rich” scam destroyed what little recovery we made in this country. They’re happily widening the divide between those who have and those who desperately want to have. This is class warfare. Make that nuclear class warfare. Don’t believe it? Then how could the GOP justify NOT spending 1/56th – less than 1.8% – of the cost of the GOP’s top-bracket tax cut for millionaires (read: FREE MONEY) on a short-term UI extension to help out millions of unemployed, desperate Americans who were (and still are) in dire straits due to NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN instead of handing it to the richest people in our country to add to the top of their pile? Then they added insult to injury by having the enormous brass balls to say we couldn’t afford the extensions because the wealthy needed their tax cuts, and called the unemployed the greedy ones. Unbelievable. Money-bundle Jenga, anyone?

A few unemployed people surely took advantage of the extensions, but the vast majority of us did not. Do many of the wealthiest in our society not take advantage of the tax code and hide income and avoid taxes? We’re NOT leeches, we’re NOT lazy, we’re NOT “too good,” and we’re NOT unmotivated! We desperately WANT good jobs and fair wages!

The wealthy still pay far less in taxes than they should. They still have more money than they know what to do with, and they won’t spend a dime of it to create jobs, because there’s no incentive to do so. Their lives are a whole lot better and easier and cushier than ours, and still, they’re not satisfied. They want more. Which means we get less. And since money equals power in America, they’ll get what they want. They always do.

So, if any of you rich folks out there find any more scraps on your well-appointed dinner tables, or good-paying jobs in your well-heeled corporations, can you toss a few our way? We hate to beg, but your greed has left us no choice.

Woof.

Americans United for Change: "Restore Unemployment Insurance Now"


Saturday, December 14, 2013

A response to Randall G. Holcombe

In the Albany Tribune, an op-ed written by Dr. Randall Holcombe argues in favor of eliminating long-term unemployment compensation:


We are paying people to be unemployed longer, so it stands to reason that more people will take up the government’s offer and remain unemployed to keep receiving unemployment compensation.

Some people genuinely have trouble finding work. But unemployment compensation takes away some of the incentive to find a job, and the longer people are out of work, the harder it is to find one. We are doing a disservice to many people by paying them not to work, rather than pushing them to get a job — any job — from which they can move up as the economy recovers.

My reply:

Since July of this year, the unemployment rate in Georgia has been lowered by .7%, from 8.8% to 8.1%. Indiana's done even better: their rate has gone down .9%, from 8.4% to 7.5%. North Carolina? They've gone down .9% too, from 8.9% to 8%.

Each state has seen a significant drop in unemployment, but only North Carolina has slashed their unemployment benefits.

Georgians currently qualify for a maximum of 43 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits: 18 weeks from the state, plus 25 weeks from the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) plan. Hoosiers currently qualify for a maximum of 63 weeks of benefits: 26 weeks from Indiana, plus 37 weeks of EUC.

North Carolinians currently qualify for 19 weeks of benefits. In July, the state cut its benefits down from 26 weeks to 19 weeks. It cut the benefit, too, from $535 down to $350. Because of the cut, the state lost its eligibility for the EUC plan.

Dr. Holcombe argues in favor of cutting long-term unemployment compensation: North Carolina is a perfect example of a state that has done just that. Have the results justified the cuts? No. The state has lowered its unemployment rate, but other states, with higher benefits, have lowered theirs just as much. The state has an 8% unemployment rate, but other states, with higher benefits, have lower unemployment rates.

Dr. Holcombe argues that "We are paying people to be unemployed longer," but that's not true: unemployment insurance allows people to compete for jobs. Extended benefits allow them to compete for a longer time. In the depths of the Great Recession, there was one job opening for every 6 or 7 job seekers. Today, there's one opening for every 3 job seekers. That's a game of musical chairs that no one should be forced to compete in, but that's today's job market.

Dr. Holcombe argues that "the longer people are out of work, the harder it is to find (a job)." That's very true: studies show that employers care more about gaps in employment more than they care about qualifications: being out of work becomes the reason people can't find work, and a vicious cycle only gets worse.

Instead of eliminating unemployment compensation, economists on both sides of the political spectrum argue in favor of extending it: extended benefits are a critical lifeline for job seekers. They're also good for the rest of the economy, producing more than a dollar's worth of growth for every dollar of benefits paid out.

Extended unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed were put into place because of the jobs crisis. Short-term unemployment is almost back to pre-recession levels, but long-term unemployment is not. Don't pull the lifeline away from the people who need it most: renew extended benefits for the long-term unemployed.

MSNBC: The startling truth of long-term unemployment

Long-term unemployment has skyrocketed since 2008, but benefits will be cut under the new budget deal. Krystal Ball looks at the individual people impacted.

Budget Leaves 1.3 Million Jobless Out in the Cold




Friday, December 13, 2013

CPBB: Mapping the Impact of Letting Emergency Jobless Benefits Expire

The CPBB has published the graphics below, detailing the maximum number of benefit weeks available to the unemployed now, and the number that will be available when the Federal EUC program expires on December 28th:


The map looks like this currently:


And will look like this on December 28th:


Nearly 5 million people are going to be impacted by the loss of an EUC stipend:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hearing On Long-Term Unemployment Benefits

The Democratic Steering Committee held a hearing on renewing the federal extension of unemployment insurance benefits. The extension, which was set to expire on December 28, 2013, was put in place in response to the 2008 economic crisis to help those who are unemployed longer than six months. It allows the unemployed to get as much as a year and a half of help while they search for work, even after state benefits have run out. Witnesses included including an electrician, a bio-tech professional and long-time company executive. They implored Congress to stop the benefits from expiring, detailing how the benefits helped them pay their mortgages and pay for gas to get to job interviews.

NELP: Millions to Face Hardship if Congress Allows EUC to Expire

NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT LAW PROJECT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 5, 2013
CONTACT: Emma Stieglitz, emmaS@berlinrosen.com, (646) 200-5307

Statement of Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project, after today's Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing on renewing federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation:

"With the U.S. House of Representatives scheduled to adjourn for the holiday recess at the end of next week, I was pleased to testify today at a special hearing called by Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on the looming expiration of federal unemployment insurance. If Congress fails to renew the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, federal jobless benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed jobseekers will abruptly end three days after Christmas. By July 1st of next year, two million more will have no federal aid when their regular state benefits end.

"Millions of jobless workers are facing severe hardship, even homelessness in many cases, if Congress allows the EUC program to expire. The value of the emergency benefits program, and the urgent need to maintain it in 2014—for workers, their families and the economy—was evident in the testimony of today's worker witnesses, whose stories clearly struck the hearts and consciences of the House Members who were present.

"It's hard to imagine that anyone hearing today's witnesses would doubt the sincere desire of the long-term unemployed to get back to work, their diligence in trying to find jobs, the crucial importance EUC benefits play in making it possible for them to get by while looking for work, and the urgent need for Congress to act—before the recess—to renew this vital program. At a minimum, the Committee on Way and Means should convene a full hearing, with bi-partisan participation, to inform all members of Congress of what's at stake in the cavalier and callous refusal to consider renewing federal unemployment insurance, which sustains millions of jobless workers, keeping many of them from descending into poverty.

"Instead, we were dismayed to read earlier today that House Ways and Means chairman Rep. Dave Camp proposes to let the federal EUC program expire:

'It was meant to be temporary, and we need to let the program expire,' House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) said on Wednesday. 'This has gone on longer than any emergency benefits in the history of the country.' (Washington Wire blog on the Wall Street Journal website)

"The crisis of long-term unemployment has endured longer than during any other period of emergency benefits in our history—and it is the extraordinary depth and duration of this crisis that demands preserving the core federal policy designed to respond to it. By nearly every key measure, neither long-term unemployment nor the overall job market have improved much since the program was last renewed, in bipartisan legislation that Representative Camp helped craft and champion.

"It is surprising that today's circumstances, which are not appreciably better than at the end of 2012, have not led Representative Camp and his colleagues to embrace a renewal of a program so vital to so many of their constituents and to the nation overall. Perhaps they should listen to what one of Mr. Camp's constituents wrote us before today's hearing. Linda Sandefur, a 49-year-old jobseeker from Brant, Michigan, who faces the prospect of having her federal benefits cut off December 28, said:

'Though I would vastly prefer to be working, I ask that Federal Unemployment Insurance (EUC) be continued. I worked for eight years in various capacities at Michigan Works!, a workforce development agency. I worked as a Career Manager, Disability Navigator and Employment Services Advisor. My most recent position ended in June of this year due to funding not being renewed. I have a Bachelor's degree and a Master's to go with years of work experience, but the job search has been very discouraging. Interviews have been few and far between.

'Now I'm told that Congress may let the federal EUC benefits stop completely at the end of December, which would leave me and more than a million other unemployed jobseekers out in the cold. Without federal unemployment benefits I will very likely lose my home.

'Here in Michigan the unemployment rate is back up to 9 percent and the state will again offer Tier 4 EUC benefits beginning next week. But if Congress shuts down EUC on December 28, we'll go from providing up to 47 weeks of federal benefits to zero weeks. My Congressman, Dave Camp, and the entire Michigan delegation, Republicans and Democrats, should come together to ensure the renewal of federal EUC for 2014. It's just the right thing to do.'

"It was a privilege to join three long-term unemployed workers in testifying today in support of renewing the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. Though their stories were their own, they echoed the crisis facing millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, are trying to get back to work, and desperately need the modest support EUC provides in the meantime. We can only hope that all members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, will open their heads and their hearts to their constituents facing an end of benefits, and act to renew the EUC program before it expires this month."

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The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org.