The New York Times vs. state spending cuts, take four. Reporter Lizette Alvarez led off Friday’s National section with a story on the plight of unemployed Floridians: “The Jobless See A Lifeline at Risk - Florida Eyes Cut in Benefits.”
Alvarez’s story hyped the liberal compassion factor even more than a similar story in Wednesday’s Times, on a move in Michigan that will also trim state unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20.
In the year [Richard Dudenhoeffer has been collecting unemployment checks in Flagler County, where joblessness remains stubbornly high, Mr. Dudenhoeffer, 61, has not even gotten his foot in the door, despite his almost daily efforts to find a job, any job. No interviews. No phone calls. No e-mails. No flicker of hope.
Without charity and his $247 weekly unemployment check, he would lose it all, he said, starting with his mobile home and his car, a lifeline in a county with no public transportation.
The Florida House of Representatives approved a bill in March that would establish the deepest and most far-reaching cuts in unemployment benefits in the nation. Like the law signed in Michigan on Monday, the measure would reduce the number of weeks the unemployed could collect benefits from the standard 26 weeks to 20.
But the House proposal in Florida -- in a high-unemployment state that already has some of the lowest benefits -- takes it one step further by tying benefits to the unemployment rate. If the rate falls, so do the number of weeks of benefits. If the rate dips below 5 percent, the jobless would collect only 12 weeks of benefits, the lowest level.
This has workers worried in Florida, where the unemployment rate, while continuing to inch down, is 11.5 percent, considerably higher than the nation’s rate of 8.9 percent. Michigan’s rate is 10.4 percent.
Alvarez at least mentioned that the trims are necessary because Florida's unemployment fund (paid for by a tax on businesses) is in deficit. But she also got quite moralistic over the budget trim:
But to some here in Flagler County, where the economy rose higher but fell harder than in any other in Florida in the past decade, the idea of creating jobs by taking away meager benefits from people whose lives have been upended does not seem just. From 2000 to 2010, this slice of Florida, just north of Daytona Beach, had the highest population growth in the state, spurred by construction as houses multiplied along vast stretches of open land. The collapse here was equally drastic. Construction jobs disappeared practically overnight, and the county now has the state’s highest unemployment rate, 14.9 percent.