State Welfare Programs – Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Michigan

  • Participation in ‘workfare’ fell sharply in Mass., study finds, By Megan Woolhouse, January 22, 2015, Boston Globe: “Massachusetts has the nation’s lowest participation of welfare recipients working to receive their benefits, undermining one of the key reforms that was intended to move people from public assistance to self-sufficiency, according to a study to be released Thursday by a conservative Beacon Hill think tank. Only 7.3 percent of people receiving welfare benefits in the state held jobs in fiscal 2011, the most recent year for which data were available, according to the Pioneer Institute. That’s roughly one-fourth the national average of about 30 percent…”
  • Walker budget to bar drug users from food stamps, Medicaid, By Jason Stein, January 22, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “With federal approval in doubt, Gov. Scott Walker is moving ahead with his campaign pledge to ensure that drug users aren’t getting public health care, food stamp or jobless benefits. As Walker explores a 2016 presidential bid, the proposal being included in the governor’s Feb. 3 budget bill will help him sell himself to GOP primary voters as a leader committed to overhauling the core programs of government. For the first time Thursday, Walker committed to drug testing recipients of BadgerCare Plus health coverage and also pledged free treatment and job training for those testing positive for drugs…”
  • Snyder’s welfare plan needs ‘mother of all waivers’, By Chad Livengood, January 22, 2015, Detroit News: “Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday the federal government may need to grant Michigan ‘the mother of all waivers’ for his administration to redesign some 145 different social services programs. Snyder’s ambitious ‘river of opportunity’ agenda that he unveiled Tuesday in his State of the State address may involve a complex untangling of a federally financed state bureaucracy for the governor to make government programs more ‘people centric’ instead of program-driven…”

US Unemployment

  • States focus on long-term unemployed, By Elaine S. Povich, November 18, 2014, Stateline: “Maybe it was Tony Stanley’s furrowed brow that was keeping him from getting a job. Or maybe it was his work history in many fields instead of just one. Or maybe it was that he was aiming too high, or maybe too low. The 50-year-old Norwalk resident has worked in a mental health center and as a security company employee, but has been unemployed for almost a year, nearly six months longer than what the federal government defines as ‘long-term unemployment.’ Imposing, athletic and impeccably dressed, Stanley picks up pocket change by refereeing high school basketball games, but he doesn’t have a full-time job. The overall unemployment picture has improved consistently since the end of the Great Recession, but the plight of the long-term jobless has proven difficult to address. With federal help, states are taking steps to help this population: In mid-October, the U.S. Department of Labor handed out about $170 million in grants to 23 agencies in 20 states for programs targeting the long-term unemployed…”
  • Unemployment rates fall in two-thirds of US states, By Christopher S. Rugaber (AP), November 21, 2014, ABC News: “Unemployment rates fell in 34 U.S. states in October, a sign that steady hiring this year has been broadly dispersed through most of the country. The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates rose in just 5 states, the fewest since April. Rates were unchanged in 11 states. Steady economic growth has prompted more companies to add jobs, though the additional hiring hasn’t yet boosted wages. Nationwide, employers added 214,000 jobs in October, the ninth straight month of gains above 200,000. That’s the longest such stretch since 1995. The U.S. unemployment rate stood at 5.8 percent, a six-year low…”
  • Most US unemployed don’t get benefits: Here’s why, By Christopher S. Rugaber (AP), November 21, 2014, Sacramento Bee: “Even though the U.S. job market is gaining strength, there are still a lot of unemployed Americans. Yet only a fraction of them are receiving financial aid from the government. Fewer than 25 percent of those out of work are signed up for weekly unemployment benefits, a near-record low since the government began tracking this data in 1987. That’s a sharp turnaround from just after the recession, when as many as three-quarters of those out of work received help, a record high…”

States and Drug Testing for Public Assistance

Scott Walker wants jobless, food stamp recipients to face drug tests, By Dee J. Hall and Mary Spicuzza, November 10, 2014, Wisconsin State Journal: “Wisconsin could have one of the nation’s most sweeping drug-testing requirements for those receiving public benefits if the proposal by Gov. Scott Walker to test those who apply for unemployment checks and food stamps becomes law. But with scant details, it’s unclear whether any expansion beyond the current testing of drug felons would be allowed under federal law governing the state’s FoodShare program. It’s also unclear how Wisconsin could craft any broad-based testing program for public benefits recipients that would be found constitutional…”

Jobless Benefit System – Ohio

Ohio lawmakers view overhauling jobless aid, By Catherine Candisky, August 6, 2014, Columbus Dispatch: “A special Ohio House committee discussed sweeping changes to Ohio’s unemployment-compensation system as legislators opened hearings yesterday on how to repay a $1.4 billion debt to a federal jobless-benefits fund. The debt has become a drag on Ohio businesses, which face annual increases in the federal unemployment tax until the loan is repaid. The fifth such increase — to a total penalty of $105 per employee — is scheduled for employers’ 2015 tax bill…”

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

  • House passes job-training bill, clearing for Obama, By Derek Wallbank, July 9, 2014, BloombergLawmakers criticized for a lack of productivity hailed an adult education and job training bill the U.S. House passed yesterday as evidence that Congress can get something done. The bill, which the House cleared for President Barack Obama’s signature on a 415-6 vote, authorizes $58 billion over six years for federal workforce development programs. It eliminates 15 programs still on the books, though most had become dormant in recent years. House lawmakers passed an earlier version of H.R. 803 last year. The Senate, after months of negotiations, passed an amended version in June. . .”
  • Congress is finally doing something about long term unemployment, By Danielle Kurtzelben, July 10, 2014, Vox: “Job training plays a curious role in American politics. On the one hand, nothing is less controversial than calls for a better-skilled workforce. On the other hand, over the years federal training initiatives have attracted a — somewhat deserved — reputation as a backwater of inefficient spending and unaccountable programs. But on Wednesday the notoriously unproductive Congress has passed a compromise Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. It’s a revamping of the Workforce Investment Act, the Labor Department’s main job training initiative. . .”

Unemployment

  • This is why it’s so hard to define unemployment, By Ylan Q. Mui, June 5, 2014, Washington Post: “What does it mean to be unemployed? Depends on what country you’re in.On Friday, the U.S. Labor Department is slated to release its monthly snapshot of the health of the labor market. Calculating the number of people who are unemployed seems like a pretty straightforward task. But the years since the Great Recession have highlighted the complexities of one of the country’s the most critical economic indicators. There is universal agreement that unemployed people meet two basic requirements: They don’t have a job, and they want a job. Those characteristics separate the unemployed from, say, your 90-year-old grandmother who is retired . . .”
  • U.S. Payrolls Rose 217,000 in May, Unemployment at 6.3%, Nearly a 6-Year LowBy Victoria Stilwell, June 6, 2014, Bloomberg: “Payrolls pushed past their U.S. pre-recession peak for the first time in May, a milestone that’s been five years in the making. The 217,000 advance in hiring followed a 282,000 gain in April, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington. It marked the fourth consecutive month employment increased by more than 200,000, the first time that’s happened since early 2000. The jobless rate unexpectedly held at an almost six-year low of 6.3 percent. ‘We’re seeing the continuation of solid payrolls gains, which is an accomplishment for the economy,’ said Laura Rosner, U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York . . .”

Unemployment Poll

  • For those out of work, scant optimism in finding the next job, poll findsBy Brenda Cronin, May 21, 2014, Wall Street Journal: “The U.S. labor market’s springtime pickup has yet to brighten the outlook of job-seekers, who say their employment prospects are still stuck in the winter doldrums. Almost half of unemployed men and women have abandoned the hunt for new work, according to a survey released Wednesday. The poll also revealed that job-seekers hadn’t entirely despaired of returning to work at some point: 91% respondents said they were hopeful of finding a desirable position in the next six months. The online poll, which was conducted in April, reflects the views of 1,500 U.S. adults age 18 or older who are able to work but have been unemployed for various lengths of time. About 20% of respondents said they were receiving unemployment benefits. . .”
  • Nearly half of unemployed not looking for work, poll findsBy Tiffany Hsu, May 21, 2014, Los Angeles Times: “Some 47% of unemployed Americans say they’ve given up on looking for work, according to a poll commissioned by staffing firm Express Employment Professionals. More than half say looking for work has been more difficult than expected; only 2 in 10 currently receive unemployment benefits. Among the rest, nearly a third aren’t eligible and 30% never applied, according to the data, which was collected by Harris Poll from April 9 to 21 from among 1,500 unemployed adults. Unless I have a masters or a PhD that allows me to make $50,000 a year with a good job, I’ll be looking at $8 an hour. A plurality of poll respondents – 45% — said they blame the economy most of all for their situation. . .”

Long-term Unemployment

The odds you’ll join the ranks of the long-term unemployed, By Matt O’Brien, May 16, 2014, Washington Post: “Long-term unemployment is a terrifying trap that, even in the best of times, is difficult to escape. And it’s a trap that you can get stuck in for no reason other than bad luck. Today, there are still almost 3.5 million people who have been out of work for six months or longer and are looking for work. There isn’t a more urgent crisis, and there are three things you should keep in mind about it. 1. As former CEA Chair Alan Krueger found, the long-term unemployed aren’t much different from the short-term unemployed. They’re a little older and more of them are African-Americans, but they’re just about as educated and work in the same industries as everyone else who’s trying to find a job. 2. The long-term unemployed have a hard time getting companies to even look at their job applications, let alone hire them. . .”

State Unemployment Insurance Funds

Why state unemployment trust fund debt matters, By Jake Grovum, April 29, 2014, Stateline: “State unemployment insurance trust funds, the engines that finance jobless benefits for millions of Americans, were battered by the Great Recession and went deep into debt to meet the demand from the unemployed. Years after the worst of the crisis, many states are still saddled with huge debt, according to a Stateline analysis of U.S. Treasury data showing trust fund balances from 2007 through the first quarter of 2014…”

Unemployment Insurance System – Tennessee

Unemployment fix could take two years, By Chas Sisk, April 24, 2014, The Tennessean: “Although state officials have known about problems in the state’s unemployment insurance program for more than a year, outside observers say it could take them at least two more to straighten things out. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development says it already has begun to address mistakes raised in an audit of the program, some of them coming up for the second time…”

Long-Term Unemployment

Long-term unemployed struggle to find — and keep — jobs, By Ylan Q. Mui, April 18, 2014, Washington Post: “For the long-term unemployed, finding a job is hard — but keeping one may be even harder. New research tracking people who have been out of work for six months or longer found that 23 percent of them landed a job within a few months of the study. But a year later, more than a third of that group was unemployed again or out of the labor force altogether. The findings are the latest in a bleak but growing body of literature suggesting long-term unemployment has become a trap that is difficult to escape…”

Long-Term Unemployment

States feel loss of jobless aid, By Jake Grovum, April 4, 2014, Stateline: “Despite bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate for reinstating emergency aid for the long-term unemployed, prospects remain dim in the Republican-controlled House. Meanwhile, the toll of the expired extended benefits on states is mounting. Five billion dollars of aid has been lost as of April 5, including at least $100 million for 13 states, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data from the National Employment Law Project, a group that advocates for safety-net programs. More than 1 million workers have exhausted their regular benefits and have not had access to long-term aid since the expiration took effect…”

Long-Term Unemployment

  • Out of work, out of benefits, and running out of options, By Annie Lowrey, April 3, 2014, New York Times: “Abe Gorelick has decades of marketing experience, an extensive contact list, an Ivy League undergraduate degree, a master’s in business from the University of Chicago, ideas about how to reach consumers young and old, experience working with businesses from start-ups to huge financial firms and an upbeat, effervescent way about him. What he does not have — and has not had for the last year — is a full-time job. Five years since the recession ended, it is a story still shared by millions. Mr. Gorelick, 57, lost his position at a large marketing firm last March. As he searched, taking on freelance and consulting work, his family’s finances slowly frayed. He is now working three jobs, driving a cab and picking up shifts at Lord & Taylor and Whole Foods…”
  • For jobless LIers, desperation becomes way of life, By Carol Polsky, March 30, 2014, Newsday: “Growing numbers of jobless Long Islanders are struggling to survive with little to no income since extended federal unemployment benefits ended in December. Despite improving local unemployment rates and job growth, thousands of long-term unemployed are still unable to find work, and now many say they are running out of money to meet even basic expenses. A bipartisan compromise was reached recently in the U.S. Senate to provide extended benefits through May, retroactive to December, but it faces an uncertain fate in the House…”
  • Oregon food stamps, welfare numbers rose after long-term unemployment aid ended, By Yuxing Zheng, April 1, 2014, The Oregonian: “The number of Oregonians relying on welfare and food stamps rose slightly in January after long-term unemployment benefits ended in December. The increases illustrate the almost immediate impact local families felt after the federal unemployment benefits ran out, pushing families already living on the margins into welfare. Although not substantial, the January increases were some of the most sizable since Oregon began to see a slow and steady decline in the number of food stamps and welfare recipients…”

Long-Term Unemployment

  • Long-term unemployed watch coming debate over benefits closely, By John Fritze, March 22, 2014, Baltimore Sun: “The first thing Eric Miles lost was his Jeep. Then it was the apartment that he and his 12-year-old son called home. Since the federal government cut off jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed late last year, the 54-year-old East Baltimore man has moved in with his sister, relied on family to pay the phone bill and borrowed bus fare to go out and look for work. ‘You’re talking about $3.50 for an all-day bus pass,’ Miles said. ‘If you don’t have the $3.50 coming in, you don’t have it.’ Nearly three months after Congress allowed the benefits to lapse, tens of thousands of out-of-work Marylanders are hoping that a bipartisan deal to extend the program through May will win approval. But the plan could be doomed by opposition from some conservatives, who say the benefits create a disincentive for seeking a job, as well as a national group representing state unemployment officials…”
  • Senate to take yet another crack at passing jobless aid extension, By Karoun Demirjian, March 23, 2014, Las Vegas Sun: “Jeff Frischmann will wait and see if the newest version of legislation to extend emergency unemployment benefits passes the Senate this week. He knows that if it does, and ultimately becomes law, it will mean working out the bugs at his job. Frischmann, chief of unemployment insurance operations at Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, is confident, though, as he anticipates the flood of people returning to the system to file claims…”
  • Senate likely to tackle extended benefits this week, By Jack Katzanek, March 24, 2014, Press-Enterprise: “A measure to extend unemployment benefits for an estimated 2 million people, including probably more than 40,000 in Inland Southern California, is likely to be discussed on the floor of the U.S. Senate at some point this week, sources in Washington, D.C. said. A coalition of Republican and Democrat senators worked out a compromise measure on March 13 that would extend the unemployment benefits, which last for 26 weeks in California, for an additional five months. Congress was not in session last week, but the measure is on this week’s list of priorities…”

Long-Term Unemployment

  • Only 11% of the long-term unemployed find work again a year later, By Ricardo Lopez, March 20, 2014, Los Angeles Times: “In a sobering new study, three Princeton economists found that only 11% of the long-term unemployed in any given month found full-time work a year later. The paper, presented Thursday at a Brookings Panel on Economic Activity, offered a comprehensive look at the profile of the long-term unemployed. The lead economist behind the study is Alan B. Krueger, the former chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors. The economists tested the hypothesis of whether a low supply of jobs or discrimination by employers contributed to long-term unemployment. The answer? Probably both…”
  • Jobs scarce for U.S. long-term unemployed, By Josh Boak (AP), March 21, 2014, The Tennessean: “A new study documents the bleak plight of Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months: Just 11 percent of them, on average, will ever regain steady full-time work. The findings by three Princeton University economists show the extent to which the long-term unemployed have been shunted to the sidelines of the U.S. economy since the Great Recession. The long-term jobless number 3.8 million, or 37 percent of all unemployed Americans…”
  • States have provided jobless benefits retroactively before — so why can’t they now?, By Stephen Koff, March 20, 2014, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “The folks who administer unemployment compensation say that the start-stop-start nature of the latest jobless-benefits proposal in Washington would be unworkable in the states. That’s because, they say, it is the states, not the federal government, that must administer the benefits and deal with all the hassles, regardless of whether the benefits are paid for by the feds…”

Extended Jobless Benefits

  • Senate reaches bipartisan deal on unemployment benefits extension, By Paul Kane, March 13, 2014, Washington Post: “Senate negotiators struck a bipartisan deal Thursday that would renew federal unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, allowing for retroactive payments to go to more than 2 million Americans whose benefits expired in late December. Ten senators, evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans, announced the pact and set up a timeline in which the legislation could pass the Senate in late March. Its outcome in the House remains up in the air, however…”
  • Senators strike bipartisan jobless benefits deal, By Alan Fram (AP), March 14, 2014, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Chalk up one partisan election-year battle that senators seem likely to resolve when they return from recess later this month — the fight over renewing expired benefits for the long-term unemployed. Bipartisan Senate negotiators said Thursday that they’d struck a $9.7 billion compromise over the issue, agreeing to a five-month extension paid for by boosting some federal revenues. Approval seemed likely by the Democratic-led Senate when it returns in late March from a weeklong recess. That would throw the issue into the Republican-run House, where its fate is uncertain…”

Unemployment Insurance System – California

Audit of EDD ordered over thousands of denied unemployment claims, By Marc Lifsher, March 12, 2014, Los Angeles Times: “State lawmakers on Wednesday ordered a formal audit of the troubled Employment Development Department and how it may have botched the handling of thousands of unemployment insurance claims. By a unanimous vote, a legislative committee directed the state auditor to find out the reasons that administrative judges are overturning more than half of EDD caseworkers’ initial denials of claims…”

Long-term Unemployment

Aid cuts have hit 2 million long-term unemployed, By Jake Grovum, March 5, 2014, Stateline: “Almost 2 million Americans who have been out of work for longer than six months have missed out on extended unemployment benefits since Congress allowed the program to expire in December, according to a new analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data. In seven states, at least 100,000 unemployed workers have missed out on unemployment benefits they would have otherwise received, according to the analysis from the National Employment Law Project, a group that advocates for workers and has lobbied for an extension of the benefits…”

Jobless Benefits – California, North Carolina

  • Jobless benefits wrongly denied, By Marc Lifsher, February 25, 2014, Los Angeles Times: “Hundreds of thousands of jobless Californians last year appealed decisions of the troubled Employment Development Department, adding to months of delays in getting unemployment benefits. After holding hearings, administrative law judges at the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board rejected many of the EDD’s cursory, highly technical decisions. They threw out or revised more than half of the earlier denials, belatedly awarding long-sought assistance of up to $450 per week. The lengthy appeals added one more layer of woe for the state’s jobless to troubles at the EDD that included unanswered phone calls, glitchy computers and confusing paperwork…”
  • Report: Average jobless benefit has fallen by 18.5 percent, By Richard Craver, February 20, 2014, Winston-Salem Journal: “The average benefit amount for unemployed North Carolinians has dropped by 18.5 percent since a state law went into effect July 1 that reduced the maximum weekly amount and number of weeks, an advocacy group said Thursday. The average weekly amount was $301.89 in June, with a maximum amount of $535, according to the left-leaning N.C. Budget & Tax Center. The cuts approved by the General Assembly lowered the maximum weekly amount to $350. By December, the average weekly amount had fallen to $245.98. That meant the average claimant received about $224 less in monthly benefits compared with June…”

State Unemployment Systems – Florida, Massachusetts

  • Unemployment without benefits, By Matt Dixon, February 17, 2014, Florida Times-Union: “When lawmakers passed a $63 million ‘modernization’ of the state’s unemployment compensation system in 2011, proponents promised it would ‘improve the claims, benefits and appeals process.’ So far, the opposite has been true. Instead of streamlining the system, the changes have created a technological mess that has blocked or delayed badly needed benefits to more than 100,000 Floridians who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The modernization project, dubbed ‘Project CONNECT,’ was passed along partisan lines, with Democrats and some legal groups in opposition. So far, many of their fears have been realized, according to a Times-Union investigation…”
  • Jobless aid still eluding some in Mass., By Megan Woolhouse, February 18, 2014, Boston Globe: “Devastated by the layoff last year from her job of 15 years, Heidi Thompson-Totman found new hope when she was approved for a federally funded program that would provide her with up to about a year of unemployment benefits while she retrained to work as a graphic designer. Borrowing $2,000 to cover tuition and enrolling at North Shore Community College last fall, Thompson-Totman looked forward to completing her associate’s degree and getting back to work — until her weekly benefit of about $300 stopped without explanation two months ago. Now, she and her husband, barely getting by, are planning to sell their Boxford home so they can pay college tuition for their two children. ‘We are going downhill fast,’ said Thompson-Totman, 47. ‘We can’t make our bills.’ Thompson-Totman is among many jobless Massachusetts residents enrolled in or approved for retraining programs who had benefits mistakenly cut off or delayed because of another defect in the new $46 million computer system for managing unemployment claims…”