Could you live on $230 a week? The inequity of unemployment insurance in the South
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Mon, 03/09/2009 – 2:32pm
We had our fun mocking the Republican Southern governors who didn’t want to take money for unemployment compensation. And there was certainly a feeling that the unemployed in these states aren’t getting as much from the system as those who live in blue states or even reddish-purple states.
The $230 figure up above: that is the MAXIMUM unemployment benefit in Mississippi. If you have an $80,000 job in Mississippi, and you lose it, the most you will get is $230/week.
This poor woman in Mississippi featured in the Globe and Mail from Toronto, Canada makes $42/week from unemployment, about the cost of 21 grandes of the Coffee of the Week at our nearby Starbucks.
It would be easy to make jokes about how you could live in Mississippi or Louisiana for that amount of money. But it wouldn’t be funny or true.
The standard of living is lower in Mississippi than California, but $230/week can’t buy that much. And most Mississippians don’t make nearly that much money from unemployment insurance. In the state, fewer than a quarter of the state’s unemployed get any benefits.
Even for those who scream “states rights” in their sleep, the unemployment insurance system is difficult to figure out. The program is federally run yet the states set the rules, including how much people receive. Extensions are granted on the federal level.
The “states rights” supporters also like to talk about what makes us “Americans.” The self-reliant, “I don’t need no help” mentality rings strong in a lot of these areas. But companies get welfare from governments. A lot of those companies that settle in these underfunded UI states are there due to corporate tax breaks, often from state governments. And in return, they contribute very little to help those who need just a little bit of help. If these companies are going to take government welfare, they should at least give some of it back at unemployment insurance time just for times such as these.