An Unfortunate Disincentive for the Unemployed to Take Part-Time Jobs
With unemployment still hovering near double digits, the Christian Science Monitor this week highlights a forgotten angle in the government’s efforts to help laid-off folks weather the storm: Getting part-time work could leave them in worse shape than if they’d remained jobless.
“Many people who have been out of work for a year are picking up work as temps or part-timers,” the Monitor writes, “unaware that state agencies will recalculate their unemployment benefits after a year – and use their most recent work history and pay level to do it.”
“What is going on for these workers is that because their most recent wages are much lower than the wages they earned in their prior fulltime job, they are facing substantial cuts in their weekly unemployment benefits,” says George Wentworth, a consultant at the National Employment Law Project (NELP) in New York.
The Monitor spotlights the case of a Massachusetts worker who was receiving $540 in federal help each month, only to see that figure drop to $103. The reason? She took a temporary job that slipped her from federal to state benefits, causing the state to recalculate her benefits based on the last job she had.
Not that Congress isn’t aware of the issue. A Senate bill passed earlier in the month would extend the filing deadline for emergency federal UI benefits through Dec. 31, but would also alter the underlying law so as not to penalize workers who take up part-time jobs in their search for longer-term employment. That provision, though, is not contained in a separate House-passed bill, which the Senate is expected to take up April 12.