Figures just released put the state’s jobless rate at a jaw-dropping 10.1 percent. More than 1.8 million Californians are now out of work.
The Legislature can help lighten this dark cloud of joblessness. The federal economic stimulus package offers more than $838 million in additional unemployment insurance (UI) for California’s unemployed, without asking the state to put up a single dime. The only requirement is that the Legislature adopt a method of calculating eligibility for UI – the “alternative base period” – that recognizes workers’ recent earnings. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) estimates that this UI expansion would help 64,500 Californians.
Congress is also offering to pay for extra benefits for the long-term unemployed. If the Legislature adopts an alternative for measuring unemployment growth outlined in federal law, workers can draw 20 additional weeks of UI benefits – on the federal government’s tab. This would provide critical assistance to the more than one in every five jobless Californians who have been out of work for at least half a year. NELP says this provision would give relief to 168,505 workers in California.
In times like these, jobless workers need all the help they can get. And all of California will feel the boost from quick legislative action. The extra federal funds will make their way to local communities as workers buy food and gas and keep up on their housing costs, and the new spending will send tax revenues to the state’s coffers. With more than one of every ten California workers now unemployed, this money is just too important to pass up.
— Vicky Lovell