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Would you be upset if your state turned down federal money for jobless benefits?

Despite record levels of long-term unemployment, some states are choosing to walk away from a total of almost $1 billion in federal jobless benefits, according to a new report (pdf).

The 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, better known as the stimulus law, extends unemployment benefits to the fast-growing number of Americans who have been without work for six months or more. In addition to helping the jobless, the federal funds offer a much-needed economic stimulus for states.

To qualify for the program, known as Extended Benefits, states must meet certain unemployment thresholds. Most must also pass new legislation empowering them to access the money—and 26 states have done so to date. But according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP) nine eligible states—Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming—have so far left a total of around $876 million in federal jobless benefits on the table, even though the costs of claiming the benefits under the program are reportedly minimal.

It's not as if the states couldn't use the extra cash right now. Thanks to budget shortfalls of varying degrees of severity, all have cut spending in other areas. But for now, they're saying thanks but no thanks to an average of almost $100 million per state in federal money.

Efforts are under way in three of those states—Iowa, Maryland, Montana—to pass the necessary legislation, according to NELP, though they're by no means guaranteed to succeed. And Renny MacKay, a spokeswoman for Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming told The Lookout that lawmakers there are weighing a similar measure. Spokespeople for the governors of Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma did not respond to requests for comment.

Answer Question

Asked by sweet-a-kins at 2:57 PM on Feb. 8, 2011 in Politics & Current Events

Level 34 (67,502 Credits)
Answers (19)
  • sweet-a-kins

    Comment by sweet-a-kins (original poster) at 2:58 PM on Feb. 8, 2011

  • No, but only if the money turned down would go directly to paying off the national debt.

    Answer by scout_mom at 2:59 PM on Feb. 8, 2011

  • It's an odd situation. That money comes with laws that must be passed. What are the laws? I read that earlier today.. What are the strings that are attached? The article didn't say.

    Answer by lovinangels at 3:02 PM on Feb. 8, 2011

  • Most people forget that this is not FREE MONEY! There are strings attached to it that many states would rather not be tied to.

    Answer by baconbits at 3:02 PM on Feb. 8, 2011

  • Yes i would.

    Answer by UpSheRises at 3:03 PM on Feb. 8, 2011

  • I think the law pertains to this

    Many of the states have said that they're reluctant to pass the necessary legislation, because the program essentially doesn't cover extended benefits for state and local government workers. The effect of that omission, state political leaders say, is to force their already cash-strapped governments to cover those costs.

    "We did not feel it was appropriate to … trigger the program in Arkansas," Kimberly Friedman, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, told The Lookout via email, citing the same concerns. "We feel that our current program is effective."

    But the study describes the cost to the states as "minimal," noting that the nine states still abstaining from the program collectively have directed an average of just 2.7 percent of all regular state benefits to out-of-work government employees


    Comment by sweet-a-kins (original poster) at 3:03 PM on Feb. 8, 2011

  • I would not be upset. There are major strings attached to this money and some states don't have the ability to deal with the strings.

    Answer by twinsplus2more at 3:05 PM on Feb. 8, 2011

  • There would have to be a good reason - usually the state's financial analysts have crunched the numbers.

    Answer by tasches at 3:13 PM on Feb. 8, 2011

  • It's an odd situation. That money comes with laws that must be passed. What are the laws? I read that earlier today.. What are the strings that are attached? The article didn't say. Answer by lovinangels

    I was about to ask the same thing.  Even if they consider it to be of minimal expense to the state in the long run, it's still an expense and without knowing what our economic recovery forecast really is, it could also go the other way and be more expensive for the state than projected.  No.  I wouldn't be upset if they were to pass it up.  Recovery is going to hurt.  IMO, it's better to rip the band-aid off quickly to let the healing begin.


    Answer by QuinnMae at 3:33 PM on Feb. 8, 2011

  • Absolutely not and we did

    Answer by itsmesteph11 at 5:29 PM on Feb. 8, 2011

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