Dear God, please save us from the Republican nuts in our state legislature:
A Republican member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives says he wants to reform the state’s unemployment insurance system in part because the way benefits are currently calculated lets workers take a paid vacation for most of the year.
“This is a fairness thing,” Rep. Scott Perry said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “What we’re trying to accomplish here is to make sure the system is solvent for people who are truly needy.”
Perry’s bill would save the state $632 million a year through 2018, according to an analysis by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. The measure would achieve most of the savings by changing the way benefit amounts are calculated. Under current Pennsylvania law, the size of a claimant’s weekly check is based either on his highest quarterly earnings in the previous year or 50 percent of his full-time weekly wage, whichever is higher. (More detailed explanations are available on the department’s website.) Perry would change the former method to base benefits on the average of a claimant’s best three quarters.
While it sounds like a small, technical change, it would reduce payouts to unemployed workers by $463 million a year because 70 percent of claimants in Pennsylvania have uneven wages during the course of a year and would no longer receive benefits based on just their best three months. The average weekly payment would drop from $324 to $277, according to Sharon Dietrich of Community Legal Services, a nonprofit that advocates for the legal rights of low-income Pennsylvanians.
And the change would stop people from abusing the system, Perry said.
“We have people that might work only one quarter of the year and are making more on unemployment than somebody that works all year long at a sustained job,” he said. “How is that fair?”
Must. Bang. Head. On. Wall.