Today is a big day! It’s our first guest blogger, Jenna Howard. Jenna and I often have conflicting views on policy, legislation, candidates and everything else, however, we both oppose ridiculous governmental requirements.
Jenna holds a B.A. in Political Science from Georgia State University. She works at the Southern Arts Federation, a regional nonprofit, and plans to begin her Masters in Public Policy next fall.
I’m pleased to do a guest blog on “The Perspicacious Conservative,” mostly because our views usually differ a great deal. I sometimes tackle my local town’s alternative newspaper, The GRIP, which covers community news and events in Spalding and other surrounding counties. I’m glad to express my views to a larger constituency! I sent some information about this topic over to The Perspicacious Conservative and was asked to write about Senate Bill 294 – a.k.a “Dignity for the Unemployed.”
If passed, the bill would require state unemployment applicants to complete 24 hours of volunteer work for a non-profit organization in order to receive state benefits. It’s worth mentioning that many states have already attempted this, but none have been successful. If this bill passes the Georgia Legislature, we would be the first state to require citizens to volunteer. It should seem a bit oxymoronic (no pun intended) to require someone to volunteer since the very definition of the word lacks any requirement other than one willingly give him or herself up for a service without penalty.
The bill’s chief sponsor is Roswell’s finest, Senator John Albers. Senator Albers did an interview on CNN where he said he thought this bill would make unemployed citizens feel better about themselves by getting up early, doing something valuable to put on their resumes, and meeting new people. This bill is inherently flawed.
Unfortunately for John Albers, the majority of the problem with unemployment isn’t that there are people out there who are unqualified for jobs. Certainly, there are situations in which that may be the case, but Georgia already has programs in place to tackle these problems (see GEDs, college, Georgia Works, and Georgia Work Ready). But incompetency isn’t the major problem here. Georgia was creating jobs in 2007 and we had a fairly healthy economy. People didn’t all of a sudden become incompetent and lose their valuable employee skills. The major problem with unemployment is that no one is hiring. The job market is simply oversaturated with applicants looking for work.
In March, Georgia’s unemployment rate hit a record high. Georgia has had higher than average unemployment in the nation for the past 4 years. Georgia continues to lose jobs instead of creating them. What good is requiring someone to volunteer when it isn’t going to force employers to create jobs in order to hire them?
Senator John Albers stated in the CNN interview that this bill would work much like the WPA (the Works Progress Administration) that President Roosevelt initiated in the Great Depression. So, why can’t the Dignity for the Unemployed work in the Great Recession like the WPA worked in the Great Depression, Senator Albers? Because the WPA employed people. It gave them jobs, income, and provided communities with much needed infrastructure. The Dignity for the Unemployed bill is nothing like the WPA. It is requiring people to work in return for no income – or they can lose the only income they are currently receiving, their unemployment package.
Now, I graduated from college in May 2011. I started applying for jobs in June (I had a part-time job that would end in August). I applied for literally hundreds of jobs that I was fully qualified, under qualified, and overqualified for. I applied everywhere including for-profit companies and non-profit organizations. Now, I don’t know when the last time Senator John Albers applied for a job, but most applications take about an hour, at least, to complete. You have to write a cover letter and tailor it to every job in which you apply. You have to tweak your resume’ so it highlights the duties of certain positions. In addition to a resume’ and cover letter, some applications require you to manually input every job you’ve had, write about why you’re the best for the position, and pass a qualifications test to weed out applicants. Requiring someone to complete 24 hours of community service when they can be applying for a job is absurd.
Bottom line, I understand some people think unemployment benefits are too lenient. I understand people have bad tastes in their mouths about unemployment entitlements. But, most people are doing the right thing on unemployment. They should not be required to complete certain hours of volunteer work to “make themselves feel better.” Many have families, had great jobs, have incredible resumes… working for free is going to give them a boost in morale. They should be doing one thing while they are receiving unemployment benefits and that’s looking for work. It is not the state’s place to force someone to “do good.” It seems that Senator Albers has his economics a little backwards. If he wants to help the unemployed, he should spend more time helping companies and organizations get back in the business of hiring and less time trying to make the unemployed have a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.