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Re: “Bredesen, Still "Looking at" Unemployment-Funds Package, Responds to Critics and Praises Obama

It's a good thing Bredesen is looking at this issue carefully. Some people in congress decided to give the stimulus money related to unemployment with a lot of their pet ideas attached and as a requirement to get the money. Since unemployment insurance is paid for by taxes on the state's employers, and is not a needs based or welfare type of income support program, rather an insurance, Tennessee has never elected to give unemployment to anyone who is not unemployed through the fault of the employer. If you are laid off, or the business closes, or if you are fired unjustly or if you had a very good work related reason to quit your job, and you are available to work again full time, you qualify for benefits. The amount of weekly benefits is set up by state law and would not be increased by the stimulus money unless the state legislature votes to increase it. One of the stipulations for getting the unemployment stimulus package requires that the state laws be changed so that people working part time who only want part time work can draw, that people who have fewer quarters of wages than is now the case can draw (this will require a major revamping of the state computer system), that people who are in training can continue to draw until they complete their training, that dependents allowances be given, and worst of bad ideas, that people who leave their jobs for personal reasons such as the illness of a family member or who are victims of domestic violence can receive benefits. These circumstances are simply not under the control of the employer and will be impossible to monitor. This puts unemployment into a sort of "mission drift" toward giving people something to which they are not entitled. It also requires more money to revamp the system and put these new program parts in place. The stimulus money does not affect the $25 increase to weekly benefit amounts which will be in effect shortly, and the federal extensions of benefits are already in place now. So refusing this portion of the stimulus package is not actually taking money from the legitimately unemployed. Though the unemployment stimulus package would provide the money for these changes, the changes cannot be undone once they are put into place, resulting in another shortfall which will require raising the tax rate on employers more, and they will do nothing to help the real problem, that the trust funds in our state and many others are going to run out of money to pay benefits if things go on as they have for a few more months. Why couldn't congress just give us the money, without using the package as an opportunity to insist we change the state laws and make unemployment into a much less defensible system? It sounds as though refusing the unemployment suppliments would actually hurt the unemployed, keep them from getting money, etc. but on closer look, it just tells us to change our laws and pay a few more people, without providing the on-going support needed to do it.

Posted by nancy jones on 03/02/2009 at 6:39 PM


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