December Unemployment Numbers Highlight Need to Bolster Unemployment System
Statement by California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski
“Today’s jobs loss numbers highlight the increasingly desperate economic position of California’s working families. With the state now at the highest level of unemployment in more than 15 years, we’re facing a code red economic crisis. Skyrocketing joblessness is causing workers and their families to fall further into a deep, dark hole that is helping to fuel a vicious downward spiral for our state’s economy.
“To stave off economic calamity, it’s imperative that the governor and legislature immediately address the growing need to bolster the state’s sagging unemployment insurance system. Unemployment insurance not only helps keep families in need afloat, it buoys the entire economy by pumping the funds back into communities and businesses.
“But because of outdated rules, California denies unemployment benefits to thousands of laid off workers each month. Many workers, especially those with seasonal employment like farm workers and those new to the labor market, don’t qualify for benefits even when their most recent earnings should make them eligible. An updated system would give workers credit for their most recent paychecks, providing a more accurate and fair distribution of benefits.
“Now more than ever, it’s crucial that we update our unemployment system to ensure benefits get to those who need it most. Congress is about to throw California’s unemployed a lifeline as part of the economic stimulus package but unless the state takes immediate steps to bring the unemployment system into the 21st century, we stand to lose out on $900 million of badly needed funds.
“The legislature and governor must enact legislation without delay that would make these necessary changes so that the state is eligible to receive these desperately needed funds. California’s laid off workers and the state’s economy depend on it.”