Unemployment Insurance Goals
President Obama wants some major reforms in our unemployment system.
President Barack Obama wants unemployment insurance to become a stepping stone for future work by making it easier to enroll in school or job training. Whether he succeeds will depend on the willingness of states and colleges to change the rules.People who have been laid off and want to go back to school often have to give up their monthly unemployment checks. And if they decide to return to school, they often don’t qualify for federal aid because eligibility is based upon the previous year’s income.
Under rule changes Obama outlined Friday, the Labor Department will ask states to make exceptions during economic downturns so that the unemployed can keep their benefits if they go to community college or pursue other education or training.
State governments, not Washington, decide who is eligible for unemployment, and they generally require anyone collecting assistance to be actively looking for work. That can complicate plans to attend school.
Resisting the urge to crack wise about Obama wanting to take control of yet something else that’s not within the purview of his office, I think he’s on the right track here.
Our system of unemployment compensation is idiotic. Basically, it’s run under the assumption that each job lost is equally replacable and by the same means. Whether one has lost one’s job flipping burgers at the local fast food chain or as a senior manager at an investment bank, the system presumes that one should simply knock on doors around town until someone offers employment.
To ensure people aren’t too picky, we make sure to make the payout meager and extremely limited in time. Again, that likely makes sense for most minimum wage jobs. But do we really want to encourage skilled workers to seek the first job that comes along paying more than unemployment benefits?