The following editorial ran in The Record today. It highlights Governor Corzine’s plan to help those who have run out or will be running out of unemployment benefits by encouraging state businesses to hire people whose unemployment benefits have run out, by using money from federal discretionary funds and the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development:
For 79 weeks, laid-off workers can collect unemployment benefits. That means the government will offer some financial help while day after day, week after week, people make cold calls, network, send out résumés, go to job interviews and then start the process over again.
The benefits won’t make anyone rich, but they help — 60 percent of a person’s average wage, not to exceed $584 a week. Then, after more than a year, after all that searching for work and still no job, unemployment insurance comes to an end.
It has stopped for more than 45,000 workers in New Jersey, at least 3,500 each week. That is scary.
On Tuesday, Governor Corzine announced a plan meant to encourage state businesses to hire people whose unemployment benefits have run out. Using money from federal discretionary funds, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development will give $2,400 to employers who hire those workers for jobs paying at least $15 an hour. The funds are to help cover the cost of training.
An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people will benefit.
This is a creative and worthwhile course of action. It lets people in desperate circumstances know that state government is aware of their predicament, and is trying to help. It offers hope during an especially bleak period. And it allows companies a cushion with which to take a risk.
“Whatever the governor is doing today is literally a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie said Tuesday. “This is not going to create sustainable jobs for the people of the state of New Jersey.”
Christie called the plan an “election-year photo op.”
He may be right that Corzine’s effort will not provide jobs to everyone in the same boat, but that is almost beside the point. It will provide jobs for some. And for those people, however many, it will make all the difference. Better to employ several thousand then do nothing at all.
The measure stipulates that the newly hired workers cannot replace other workers, and they must be employed for at least six months. So even if, for some reason, an employee loses the job after half a year, that will have been half a year of earning an income, of going to work each day and of learning a new skill or keeping up with skills. It also means another job to put on the resume.
As for this being an election-year stunt, that seems rather dramatic. Corzine will not win reelection because 3,000 to 4,000 newly employed voters pull the Democratic lever in appreciation.
The federal government has extended unemployment insurance payments twice, and then paid for another stretch, prolonging the state’s 26 weeks to the current 79. Yet people still can’t find work. Bills go unpaid. A health problem or unforeseen car repair can upset whatever delicate financial equilibrium there was. Families lose homes.
Recent census data reveals that last year citizens in deep poverty — people whose income dropped below half the federal poverty line — reached the highest level in 14 years. That means a family of four earned $11,013 or less. The number of poor was the highest since 1960.
If Christie has a better idea, if he has a way to scoop up even half the workers in New Jersey who have exhausted unemployment benefits and plunk them into new jobs, we are eager to hear it.