Friday, February 11, 2011

Working for Unemployment Money

There are approximately 1.1 million unemployed individuals in the state of Florida, now some are considering a requirement that those receiving unemployment checks volunteer for four hours each week at a nonprofit.  Here is the link to the original article:
Requiring those that receive an unemployment check for longer than 12 weeks to work is a fantastic idea.  What better way to motivate people to go out and find a job than by making these people “work” for their check?  Sure, there will be the usual arguments that the unemployed are spending every waking moment searching for a new job, or that they are entitled to the money.  We all know that both of these arguments are 100% false.  There is also the argument presented in Florida that it will be too expensive to hire people to oversee the program and to verify participation.  While this may be true to some degree – it could not possibly be more expensive than the millions of dollars already being paid out to unemployed individuals.  Also, with careful oversight and construction, very few people could administer the program effectively while avoiding any future growth of state bureaucracies.
I would propose that the idea be taken one step further – why not use some of these unemployed to help civil servants catch up on their work or let cities catch up on small tasks like trash pickup along the highway?   Lets just use some nice easy numbers and suppose that the average unemployment check is $400.00 per week.  Let’s also suppose that the average hourly wage in the state of Florida for an unskilled laborer (picking up trash, filing papers, mowing lawns, etc) is $10.00 per hour.  My proposal would include a requirement that all individuals on unemployment earn one quarter (or more) of their unemployment check each week by donating their time to the city or county (basically working and receiving unemployment rather than an hourly wage).
So in this example an individual would have to work for ten hours each week picking up trash or mowing lawns in their city or county.  There is certainly room for exceptions – maybe include charity work as an alternative to working for the city or county.  Either way, the unemployed are giving something back in return for their unemployment checks – rather than just sitting around the house waiting for a potential employer to call.
Not only would such a program provide a cheap source of labor for the cities and counties who take advantage of this program, but it would allow some degree of on-the-job training for these people.  Who knows what new skills could be learned that may lead to gainful employment in the future.  City and county organizations could easy compile a list each month work that needs to be completed – the unemployed could then volunteer to fill those slots.
There will certainly be push-back from the unemployed – after all we are human and would prefer to take the easy way out: e stay home and still receive our money with no additional effort.  But since this program is only using a very small percentage of the individual’s time each week there is still plenty of time for family obligations and further job searches.
A program like this could serve several purposes:
1.  Make long term unemployment checks just a little less convenient/easy.
2.  Replace paid positions in state, county, and local government government organizations with cheap unemployed workers.
3.  Offset some of the costs of providing unemployment.
4.  Provide on-the-job training to interested volunteers.
Overall there seems to be very little downside to such a proposal.  What do you think?

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