Sunday, August 2, 2015

Banking the coals

The long and rough recession and its lingering aftermath have taken a toll on Pennsylvania's unemployment trust fund, now insolvent. The state owes the federal government $3.8 billion and counting as it continues to borrow money to pay out employment benefits to the state's jobless. Obviously, the fund can't go on being broke, so a fix is needed and Pennsylvania's legislators are working on it this week. Tucked away in the bill, which accomplishes much of the fixing by making fewer people eligible for benefits, is a provision that seeks to reduce the drain on the system by making fewer people unemployed period.

Banking the coals

0 comments

The long and rough recession and its lingering aftermath have taken a toll on Pennsylvania's unemployment trust fund, now insolvent. The state owes the federal government $3.8 billion and counting as it continues to borrow money to pay out employment benefits to the state's jobless. Obviously, the fund can't go on being broke, so a fix is needed and Pennsylvania's legislators are working on it this week. Tucked away in the bill, which accomplishes much of the fixing by making fewer people eligible for benefits, is a provision that seeks to reduce the drain on the system by making fewer people unemployed period.

It's not a job creation measure -- those have dubious success anyway. It's a job retention approach. What if, instead of a company laying off a small group of people, it temporarily reduced hours of a larger group, moving them into part-time status? The unemployment fund would be able to help those workers make ends meet by providing a smaller benefit.

It's not ideal, obviously. No one wants to earn less money, obviously. But it's an interesting concept for society at large and one worth exploring.

When someone loses a job, there is more lost than that one person's income. Also lost is an investment in that person made by society and by the person's company. The money the company put into training, into retention, into recruitment is all thrown out. The skills that the company needed are now not available. Society too loses, because the person who is unemployed is now now using his skills to their highest level. If they take a make-do job at a lower level of pay or skill, the money spent on college, or advanced training may be wasted. And, as I've reported over and over again, when these people lose their way, they may never recover. Their spending power is reduced (bad for the economy) and the future of their children is curtailed (bad for the nation's future too). 

When things improve, the company needs to scramble to fill openings, at a cost to them that would not have been necessary if the employee could have stayed on, even in a more limited capacity. Meanwhile, that person's talents and skills would have remained sharp and fresh and the company would have the flexibility to increase hours as the economy improves.

Looking at the measure, I can see the possible problems, but I can also see the benefits. I particularly like one provision that allows benefits to remain intact. That would be a lifesaver for so many families.

In our nation's early days, pioneers became very adept at banking the fires in their stoves or fireplaces. They learned how to preserve a few burning coals through the dark of the night, enough to rekindle their cooking fires in the morning. It was so much easier to rekindle a fire from a few warm coals than to struggle to light a new flame.  

 

Inquirer Staff Writer
0 comments
We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy:

Philly.com comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by Philly.com staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
 
comments powered by Disqus
About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
Also on Philly.com:
letter icon Newsletter
Topics: