Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

In a near-party-line vote, the Assembly turned down billions of federal dollars for the unemployed Monday. A bare-bones version of a bill to bring California’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) system into compliance with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – and help the state’s long-term unemployed – was defeated by a single vote. The bill in question would have enabled jobless Californians to receive an estimated $2.5 billion to $3 billion for Extended Benefits – with the state on the tab only for what the Assembly Floor analysis estimates as “likely minor” costs of payments for workers laid off by the state and schools.

This vote, absent future action, means that workers who run out of both their regular UI benefits, a maximum of 26 weeks, and special federal “emergency” benefits, up to 33 additional weeks, and are still out of work will miss out on up to 20 more weeks of benefits. The National Employment Law Project projects that more than 168,000 unemployed Californians will be in that boat by June. The Legislature’s action also means that local communities will miss out on the economic impact that billions of federal UI dollars would have as the unemployed use their benefits to buy groceries and pay their mortgages.

— Vicky Lovell

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