The Privileging of Elderly Unemployment
The very first time I lost a critical portion of my income, I did look into the possibility of catching the edge of Rhode Island’s safety net to keep my family from sinking further into the debt that continues to prevent our eyes from turning to the financial future. Now, I haven’t even bothered to consider it, because I learned that having even the supplemental income of a part-time job reduces one’s unemployment “benefits” to zilch. In his apparent drive to become infamous, Rep. Thomas Slater (Providence; guess the party) has successfully maneuvered through the House a privileging of one form of supplemental income:
Under current state law, Social Security benefits are considered “disqualifying income” for those filing for unemployment. In one instance, a woman recently told the House Committee on Finance, an unemployment benefit of $130 per week for which she was eligible was slashed to $6 because her Social Security benefits were counted against her.
Legislation was approved today by the House of Representatives to strike the “disqualifying income” provision of state law that is currently financially penalizing this particular category of the state’s unemployed.
Sponsored by Rep. Thomas C. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), the bill (2007 – H5296) will bar Social Security benefits from being considered “disqualifying income” when applying for unemployment. Rhode Island, one of only seven states that still counts Social Security benefits against unemployment, deducts half of the individual’s Social Security benefit from the total of unemployment compensation.
“The current provision of state law is just flat-out wrong and unfair,” said Representative Slater. “People work for years to become eligible for Social Security benefits. Receiving those benefits should not be a penalty when these individuals find themselves unemployed. This section of law can be financially disastrous to those people who are collecting Social Security but who also need to work and who lose their jobs.”
To be honest, I was ultimately relieved back when I was denied the crutch of public handouts, and further consideration since then has led me to admit that a system would be ridiculous that strove to guarantee a level of income, rather than just a last-minute buffer from rock bottom. But even moderating this view, why is it that those receiving Social Security — most of whom aren’t any longer supporting child-inclusive households, and who are more likely than the average not even to have mortgage payments — require enhanced protection from “financial disaster”? It would seem that, if anything, a handout of one kind is more properly counted against a handout of another kind than is income from productive labor.