Senator Campbell: Long-term unemployed must volunteer in return for benefits

If Berkeley County State Senator Paul Campbell has his way, those who are long-term unemployed and are receiving unemployment benefits would have to perform volunteer community service in order to continue receiving state assistance.

Senate Bill 1049, which Campbell sponsored, has an LCI Committee hearing tomorrow, was motivated by his experience as a plant manager for Alcoa. This requirement would apply to those who were out of work twenty-six weeks (six months) after first filing for employment, and would require them to perform at least sixteen hours a week of "suitable" volunteer work in order to continue receiving assistance.

In talking with the Blogland, Campbell said he sponsored the bill because he was concerned that "it's easier to find a job if you've got one. Being out of work long-term make it difficult to get back into the job market, and if you can't get bavk to work, you, your family and your community lose out. That's the bottom line."

Senator Campbell isn't the only one who sees it that way. Being an HR person, I learned a long time ago that it's better to keep people doing something than to leave them completely idle. Once they stop working, it's harder to get them back into a job as they get out of the habits necessary for work and they stop keeping their skills current.

Those observations are supported by an October report published in The Economist, more than 40% of all those unemployed have been out of work for more than six months. Roughly two-thirds of that group haven’t worked for a year or more.

Liberals were quick to blast Campbell's plan with George Wentworth of the National Employment Law Project complaining that Campbell's bill "feeds negative stereotypes of the unemployed".

Obviously he forgot that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the most left-leaning people to serve as President, who created full-time jobs for the unemployed during the Great Depression through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Many of the major roads, public utilities and public buildings constructed in the United States in the 1930s were built through this program, some of which were vital contributions for the infrastructure of a nation gearing up for World War II.

It's hard to see how the accomplishments of the WPA projects created any sort of negative stereotype for those who built them. If anything, those accomplishments should have given those who worked on them something to be proud of. Working for a construction company, I see the very real pride my employees take in building something real.

Compared to the WPA jobs, which required working for more than full-time hours often far from home for months on end with low pay and often harsh working conditions, asking for someone to volunteer the equivalent of two full-time days a week doesn't seem too much to ask, especially if it can keep those without work busy and allow them to give back to their community at the same time.

The effects of long-term unemployment in the Great Recession are very real. If we want people to be ready for work and get something of value for the billions being allocated for unemployment programs, Campbell's legislation is a step in the right direction. Legislators need to pass this bill.

2 Response to "Senator Campbell: Long-term unemployed must volunteer in return for benefits"

  1. Bill Pickle 10/1/12 05:08
    This requirement has been considered by many, but no one has really pushed the idea. The whole process needs reform and some type of work requirement must be part of the reform. Hats off to Senator Campbell.
  2. Anonymous 10/1/12 14:30
    Earl-while I personally love the idea, the problem is it will not pass Federal muster. First, any state that accepts Federal funds to use towards paying unemployment payments is not allowed to then set conditions on those who receive unemployment funding. Second (and this is the added kicker), the Federal court system has upheld that requirement.

    As it currently stands, say the SC General Assembly did pass this bill, Gov. Haley signed it and it went into effect, the most likely result would be the Obama Administration would order the Treasurey department to suspend any further unemployment payments to SC until the law was rescinded. That leaves us with two outcomes; 1) SC rescinds the bill and unemployment payments are continued; or 2) SC thumbs its nose at the Feds and tells them to keep their money.

    Obviously that would cause an immediate hardship upon those who had been dependent on those unemployment checks but it also leaves this state open to Federal retalilation at many other levels. Imagine the impact if the Obama Administration were to then instruct the Treasurey department to suspend further payments to SC that were designated for education, prisons, law enforcement. It can be done and actually has been done by previous adminstrations. A good example: remember the 55mph speed limits and western states opposing it due to the tremendous amount of distance and time it would add to travel? Wyoming fought that tooth and nail in the 70's and lost--badly.

    First the Feds withheld money that was designated for hwy. projects as they had said they would. Wyoming did not give in, then the Feds began to withhold funds that were designated for law enforcement but Wyoming continued to hold out. Then the Feds threatened to withhold funds for approved projects unrelated to enforcement of the Federal 55mph law and to add force to their decision the DOJ threatened to arrest both the Governnor and the Attorney General of Wyoming for obstruction of Federal law. Wyoming was left with no choice but to give in and precedent was set.

    Personally I think those who receive Federal monies (unemployment/welfare/food stamps/social security/medicare/etc) should be required to do volunteer work/continued education/drug testing/etc. Until the Feds and especially this administration learn there is no such thing as free money, there can be no change from what we are currently mired in...teg

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