Monday, May 16, 2011

The criminalisation of the unemployed

As a follow up to our earlier blog on the criminalisation of benefit claimants SOYMB reads that many states are blocking unemployment benefits extension for "lazy" "drug addicted" "breeding"" hobos"

In the last few months, several states have moved to limit unemployment benefits, even with the national unemployment rate at 9 percent and more than 40 percent of the unemployed having been out of work for six months or more.

Lawmakers in Utah falsely claimed that cutting jobless benefits would be “motivation for people to get back to work”

Idaho legislators tried, unsuccessfully, to cut unemployment benefits last month, with state Rep. Marv Hagedorn (R) saying, “it’s time to lead the horse away from the trough and make him go to work.”

Despite having one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation Michigan's state legislature voted to reduce the number of weeks that unemployed workers can collect benefits from 26 weeks, the national standard, to 20 weeks. Republican lawmakers claimed that cutting benefits was necessary to "cut down on cheaters" and will be "cost-saving" for Michigan businesses, who contribute to the cost of unemployment insurance and to reduce money owed to Michigan's unemployment trust fund, which is supported by state and federal unemployment taxes paid by business but at the expense of denying unemployed workers much-needed benefits.

Florida Republicans this weekend also succeeded in reducing their state’s unemployment benefits, sending a bill to Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) for his signature. The National Employment Law Project pointed out, with this bill, Florida will “go further than any other state in dismantling its unemployment insurance system.” The Republican sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Nancy Detert (R), relied on the same false assumption as the lawmakers in Utah, saying that cutting benefits “encourages people to get back into the job market.” Research by the San Francisco Federal Reserve has found that workers who qualify for unemployment benefits stay unemployed just 1.6 weeks longer than those who do not qualify for such benefits.

Desert said her proposal already was the “gift of the year” for Florida’s business community. “Pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered,” Detert said. “Learn to like it or get nothing.” To qualify for benefits, workers would have to prove they were seeking jobs and complete a state-approved skills test or training program. The bill cuts by 10 percent the tax rate that businesses pay to cover the costs of unemployment benefits and makes it easier for companies to keep former workers from collecting benefits.

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