NEWS BLOG (WSAU) The federal stimulus bill from last summer included money to extend unemployment benefits for people who are classified as "long term unemployed". The money was released to the states six weeks ago. Those extended benefits begin flowing to the people this week.
With this extension, it is now possible for people who lost their jobs at the end of 2008 or early 2009 to collect 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. That's a year and ten months. And that's outrageous.
The standard unemployment package -- 26 weeks -- is already too long. The ideal job to replace one that's been lost may not materialize in 6-months, but anyone who is making a legitimate effort can find some kind of employment in a matter of weeks. And the system should be shifted toward the unemployed doing some kind of work, even if it's at a convenience store or a fast-food joint, instead of doing nothing. Those kinds of low-end jobs keep people active, and serve as motivation to find something better.
The 99-weeks doesn't address the two biggest problems that keep people from finding work: difficulty in relocating and difficulty in retraining. People who are young and single can pack up and move to where the jobs are. They have an advantage finding work over people who are older and have families. Similarly, young people who can be easily re-trained and get new skills are better able to adapt to the changing job market. I'd like to see unemployment benefits tailored to give additional help to people who are willing to relocate. I'd favor longer unemployment benefits, perhaps folded into a student-aid package, for people who want to train for new careers.
I'm frustrated that it's politically easier to extend jobless benefits than it is to make real changes to the system that would help the unemployed and help the economy. Most people who are without jobs want to become contributing members of our economy. We should focus more enabling them to do so, rather than paying them to do nothing.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau