Sunday, May 17, 2009

Unemployment Benefits: Action Alert for New York State Residents

The Case for Unemployment Indexation

The need to increase the maximum unemployment benefit of $405 per week, which amounts to just over $10.00 per hour, is self evident. This benefit has not been increased in a decade and has deteriorated in value well below 50% of the average weekly wage (AWW), the historical level that benefits have been set at.

For working families, allowing the value of the unemployment benefit to deteriorate has meant the difference between making the mortgage payment, sending a child to school or keeping health care. In too many cases it has meant choosing between basic necessities like clothing, food or health care. Raising and indexing the unemployment benefit will help address these problems. But it also means more business and revenue for grocery stores, mom and pop stores and business in the community.

There will be pushback from the business community about the cost of indexation. The fact is the business community has never met a labor protection that they like, and the fact is New York’s rate is well below many states, including 3 of the 5 that surround us. Under the NYS AFL-CIO proposal, our competitive advantage will not change and the cost will still be below those same 3 out of 5 states.

The fact that we have underfunded the unemployment trust fund and kept an artificially low rate of cost for employers has resulted in the need to borrow an average $90 million per week to pay for our current, low and inadequate benefit. This borrowing costs both business and taxpayers more in the long run.

The economic and social value of unemployment is what helps both working families and business survive a recession, particularly one as acute and widespread as the current crisis. That is why we need an indexed benefit. So we never again allow this vital economic stimulus and protection for working families to become so underfunded again.

Past administrations have shown the lack of political will to shore up the benefit and the funding of unemployment. Yet indexation has been proven to work, is cost effective and its time has come.

* 35 other states & Washington DC index their maximum benefit

* 23 other states index their maximum benefit at higher than 50% of AWW

* Each surrounding state indexes the benefit and 4 our of 5 higher than 50% of AWW

* Each surrounding state has higher U/I benefit than NY’s

* 15 other states & Virgin Islands index the taxable wage base that the U/I premium is levied on.

Denis M. Hughes


Monday, May 18, 2009
1:00 p.m.
State Fed Headquarters, Albany

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