By Josiah Cantrall
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute
Are many of the jobless really interested in finding employment?
Unemployment is a frightening reality for thousands of Wisconsin residents, yet recent developments seem to question if the unemployed benefits claimants are truly interested in finding new jobs. No, this isn't simply rhetoric from so called "heartless, uncaring conservatives." While state and Federal laws mandate unemployment claimants search for work, some argue there are more incentives than consequences for non-compliance. Wisconsin has recently made changes to address this concern.
Last month the state's Unemployment Insurance Division began a program to match jobless-pay claimants with the state's job service database. Registering with the database was made a prerequisite to receiving benefits and new applicants were given a ten day grace period.
On Friday, however, these changes was abruptly ended by a top Department of Workforce Development (DWD) official.
John Dipko, a DWD spokesman, informed the Milwaukee Journal that "the number of new claimants who experienced payment holds became significant."
According to Dipko's correspondence with the Journal, during the 11-day enforcement period, 4,500 new claimants were denied benefits for failure to register with the job center and, "another 1,200 claimants had benefits denied during the enforcement period but (soon after) became compliant."
What exactly is going on?
Did those affected make an honest mistake and worse yet, are they victims of a complex and disenfranchising process? Or, do some people prefer the automatic pay of unemployment rather than work to find a new job?
For the 1,200 individuals who complied after their benefits were revoked, it could have been a mistake. However, for the other 4,500 people affected, there doesn't appear to be a logical explanation.
Unemployment benefit applications can be completed online or by phone. Registering with the states job data base can also be accessed and completed online. Even if the state requires more information, the states website says, "all of our investigations are conducted by telephone, telephone typewriter devices (TTD), or letter."
If these individuals already accessed a computer when they filed their unemployment claim, what prevented them from registering online with the state's job database during the ten day grace period? Ultimately, the state backed down and extended the grace period to sixty days. However, if unemployed individuals are serious about finding a new job, ten days is more than enough time to complete a simple online application. We aren't talking about isolated incidents of non-compliance here. Remember, a large proportion of new unemployment claimants failed to register even after their benefits were put on hold.
Think what this says about our society. People want to sign up for unemployment benefits, but they really don't want to be bothered with finding a new job.
We are still just tinkering around the edges here in Wisconsin. No one wants to end unemployment benefits, but our current system isn't working. Unemployment is a serious issue that must be addressed, but there are few alternatives for those who aren't really interested in finding work.
The Department of Workforce Development made necessary changes and should never have backed down. It's not heartless or uncaring to ensure the unemployed are on a path to employment.
That is true compassion.
Cantrall's work has appeared on AmericanThinker.com, BigGovernment.com, Washington Times online edition and other national programs. Most recently, Josiah served as the National Coalitions Director for the Rick Santorum Presidential campaign. Catch up with Josiah at www.josiahcantrall.com.