Friday, February 27, 2009

Backlash On Gov. Perry's Rejection Of Federal Stimulus Money

As Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) continues to threaten to reject millions of dollars in federal stimulus money for increased unemployment insurance, there is growing anger among the unemployed over being handed conservative ideology rather than a stimulus generated job or an unemployment insurance check.

Gov. Perry joins with the Republican governors of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alaska and Idaho in extending to unemployed workers conservative ideology that government has no role to help them rather than a helping hand.

From the NYTimes:
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 in Texas.

Mr. Kight and other unemployed workers said they were incensed to learn they were living in one of a handful of states — many of them among the poorest in the nation — that might not provide the expanded benefits. [Unemployment regulations in these states, involving such matters as the length of a person’s work history or reason for leaving a job often disqualify newly unemployed workers from receiving benefits.]

Currently, when considering a person’s work history, most states do not include wages earned in just the current or preceding quarter. Instead, they look to see what the person earned in the four quarters before that, which can often hurt low-wage workers, people facing a second or third successive layoff and people just entering or returning to the work force.

In Mr. Kight’s case, he was unemployed for the second half of 2007, after being downsized from an earlier job at a different electronics manufacturer. As a result, when he applied for unemployment benefits after the secon layoff, he did not have enough immediate work history to qualify.

“I have worked for so many years, a total of probably 30 years, contributing to the support system that helps people when they get in a tough spot like I’m in,” Mr. Kight said. “I haven’t needed it too much in the past, but I sure could use it right now.”

About 40 percent of applicants who are now disqualified from receiving benefits because they do not earn enough would qualify if states offered an alternative base period, according to the National Employment Law Project.

“It just seems unreasonable,” Mr. Kight said, “that when people probably need the help the most, that because of partisan activity, or partisan feelings, against the current new administration, that [Gov.] Perry is willing to sacrifice the lives of so many Texans that have been out of work in the last year.”

He was referring to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who has said he may decline the extra money rather than change state policy.

“I remain opposed to using these funds to expand existing government programs, burdening the state with ongoing expenditures long after the funding has dried up,” Mr. Perry wrote in a letter to Mr. Obama last week.
It is not clear why participating in the expanded unemployment insurance program would result in "ongoing expenditures." The recovery package will fund state unemployment for approximately three years, at which point Texas could — if it chose to do so — return to the more restrictive unemployment regulations. And, if the job stimulus successfully helps to put people back to work, then fewer workers will be unemployed and needing assistance.

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