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The Tentacle


October 20, 2011

No Panacea, Just Results

Amanda Haddaway

Earlier this month the State of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) announced an extension to unemployment insurance benefits. Individuals who are still unemployed are eligible for another 13 weeks of benefits.

 

These additional benefits are available to those people who have already exhausted their 47 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation benefits. This is on top of the standard unemployment insurance benefits that they received for 26 weeks, for a grand total of 86 weeks (1.65 years) of benefits.

 

There is no doubt that many Marylanders are struggling to find work, but continued extensions simply “kick the can down the road” and prolong the problem of getting people back on their feet and back in the workplace.

 

According to the DLLR’s website, the requirements to search for a new job are more extensive for the additional 13 weeks of benefits.

 

“Generally speaking, you must make a systematic and sustained search for work each week (Sunday through Saturday). This means that you must look for work on at least three (3) separate days each week and contact a total of at least four (4) employers each week. You must contact different employers each week unless an employer specifically requested that you apply again.” It’s unclear why these requirements weren’t enforced for the first 73 weeks of benefits.

 

As someone who is on the employer side of things and fields many calls each day from people looking for work, it appears that job seekers must only contact the employer and ask if they are hiring. There doesn’t seem to be a requirement to contact employers who might have a remote match for the person’s skill set.

 

Another problem that exists with the current system is that many job seekers have become disenchanted with their job search and are figuring out ways to live within the means of their unemployment benefits.

 

Consider this scenario: a Maryland company is hiring mechanics. The company will pay up to $35 per hour (annualized to $72,800) for experienced mechanics. However, the positions remain vacant after several months of searching. A few candidates who have interviewed have indicated that they can make more money by collecting unemployment and doing side jobs for cash. Is this the American Dream?

 

Perhaps the State of Maryland should learn from what other states are doing to get its citizens back to work. Florida, under the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott, has reduced its unemployment rate by 1.3 percent. This translates into more than 87,200 private sector jobs created since January. Florida continues to add, on average, 9,000 jobs per month.

 

Last week, Governor Scott released his 2012 Job Creation and Economic Growth Agenda. Many of these initiatives could be enacted in our own state and should be thoughtfully considered by our elected officials.

 

Key initiatives include:

 

Requiring unemployment recipients who fail basic job skills testing to enter a workforce training program to learn those basic skills in order to continue receiving benefits.

 

Reprioritizing state transportation projects to focus on projects that would help create the most number of jobs.

 

Reducing business taxes.

 

Eliminating more than 1,000 state rules and regulations that stifle business growth and job creation.

 

There’s no panacea for fixing the economy and Maryland’s job outlook, but we need to do more than we’re doing now; we need to try different things. Maryland should take a page from Governor Scott’s book because he just might be on to something.

 

amanda.haddaway@gmail.com

 



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