Greg Marrow | Facts and figures on unemployment

Recently I read in the News Leader an attempt by Del. Steve Landes to explain away his rejection of the $125 million in federal stimulus money dedicated to unemployment insurance. Early on in his commentary Del. Landes states, “This would have been a permanent change to unemployment benefits.” As Steve Landes and everyone else in his party know, this is simply not true.

While the Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act does prohibit states from enacting a sunset clause, it does NOT prohibit or penalize states like Virginia from changing the law and removing the expansion provision even as soon as the 2010 session. The General Assembly could easily put an expiration date on the expansion provision and stop it at any time. The use of the word “permanent” is just another scare tactic that doesn’t hold water.

In the article Del. Landes goes on to ask, “Who will pay for this? Taxpayers? Businesses that are struggling to survive in this economic recession?” This is a good question, and the simple answer is … the federal government. The $125 million was stimulus money already allocated for spending, it was essentially free to Virginians. Even if the General Assembly decided not to remove the expansion provision and allowed the unemployment benefits to continue, the average cost to employers would only be about $2.62 per employee per year! When you consider that Virginia employers pay some of the lowest unemployment benefits in the country (roughly $98 per employee, compared to the national average of $258 per employee) then that extra couple of bucks is hardly the burden that Landes implies. As a business owner myself, I have no problem spending an extra couple of dollars each year to benefit my neighbors who will, in turn, spend that money in my community.

While Del. Landes does not explain in his commentary why he voted against the stimulus money which his constituents desperately need, he does mention a few token bills that he claims were “significant contributions of legislation” including HB 2056. This bill provides incentives for Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding. The last time I checked, we didn’t have any shipyards in Waynesboro or Augusta County. How does this bill benefit us in District 25?

Explain to me, Mr. Landes, how you supported this bill to benefit the Tidewater area, but you shot down, in your own committee, SB 1215 which would have created similar incentives for manufacturers of clean energy? Unlike the shipyard bill, some of these jobs could have come to our towns.

Lastly, Landes states, “our goal has been to enact laws and policies that represent a long-term, balanced solution that is in the best interest of all our citizens.” I think most would agree Mr. Landes, that rejecting $125 million that we don’t have to pay back, while in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and while Waynesboro has double-digit unemployment, is not “in the best interest of all our citizens.” Nor is voting for grants that that only benefit coastal areas of Virginia while shooting down those that could have given jobs to our neighbors, friends and relatives. Call me selfish, but I am personally a lot more concerned with the economic prosperity of my neighbors than I am of those who live 4-5 hours away.

Folks, during this economic crisis where 300,000 Virginians are unemployed, and unemployment rates are at unprecedented highs, there is no excuse for our elected officials to have thumbed their noses at this stimulus money. Virginia politicians like Steve Landes can spin this all day, but the reality is that their rejection of this needed financial aid hurt every day. Virginians trying to make ends meet, feed their children, buy medicine or possibly stay out of foreclosure. We deserve better action than this folks, we deserve people who will actually represent us in Richmond.

 

– Greg Marrow is a candidate for the 25th House District Democratic Party nomination.

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