It's not gonna fix itself

Today I joined several of my House/Senate colleagues (from both parties) to learn more about just how much work lies ahead of us to fix unemployment in our state.

Before I was elected, it seemed easy enough. Go recruit business to our state and create jobs. Simple.

Apparently, it ain’t that simple!

While recruiting business is a good start; I’ve since learned that part of the challenge is getting people BACK to work and keeping the unemployment fund solvent (without increasing taxes now up to $567 per employee, which has been mentioned).

You’ve probably heard a lot about the Employment Security Commission and how the issue of our state’s unemployment problem (like every other issue known to man) involves a lot of finger pointing back-and-forth as to who WAS the problem, who IS the problem, and who IS to be blamed and who CAN fix it.

We can keep on finger-pointing or the elected officials in the House/Senate can do the “heavy lifting” and fix it….now….much later than we should have.

We tried reforms last year but those were defeated. We’ve now got more information at our hands and so it’s time to finish (start) fixin’ it. I’m still sorting through information from today and this past session…and let me tell you, I am not the expert here, far from it. We’ve actually had several folks looking into this for some time but “a fix” hasn’t happened yet. That’s gonna change.

Next week we’ve been called back to address a “stimulus problem” dealing with unemployment but it’s my hope we can do more than that. If not now, when?

Problem is, our Sine Die resolution next week limits what we CAN and CANNOT do when called back. So, if we want to do any work “outside of the federal stimulus” (reforms,etc) it will most likely take a 2/3 vote to amend the Sine Die resolution. If we start down that road, will we then get distracted with a possible impeachment resolution that requires 2/3 vote as well to be considered?

I don’t have today’s Commerce presentation ready for you on Nathan’s News but here’s a link that has very similar data (2006-2008) that we saw today. You can see what we’re looking at.

For many, Unemployment is viewed as “You lost your job through no fault of your own, you get help”.

That’s not necessarily the case. There are recipients who “Voluntary Quit”, who are paid with “Employer Filed Claims” (usually temporary layoffs, seasonal) and “Misconduct”. You read that correctly – misconduct.

From the report today, 22.8% of the claims from Jan 2006 – June 2009 were for misconduct. 56% of those claims received pay. (Had SC not paid any misconduct claims, we’d had saved $384 million since 2006) What was the misconduct? That’s what I’m wondering. So are my colleagues.

What about “Voluntary Quit”? 10.1% of claims were those and 19% of those were paid. (That’s a “lesser problem” than others but one that should be addressed).

Some more “highlights” I jotted down from today’s roundtable that makes you wonder….

SC is only 1 of 9 states that allows Employer Filed Claims.

SC also is only 1 of 6 states (soon only 1 of 4) that uses the Federal Minimum Wage Base of $7,000. The national average is $14,302 and the national range is from $7,000 to $35,700.

3% of SC employers account for 30% of the claims.

SC is 11th worst in Exhaustion Rates (meaning, we aren’t getting our people OFF unemployment fast enough).

In a nutshell, we need to be sure Commerce, the Employment Security Commission, the Legislature and Governor are working to recruit jobs (actively and through business climate), to manage unemployment claims, to encourage back-to-work (sooner rather than later), and to be sure there are no incentives for employees or employers to abuse the system.

The Palmetto State is not the only one with a monumental task ahead. Currently 22 states are borrowing Federal money to help with unemployment and estimates for 2010 show that as many as 41 states will need Federal Assistance.

As I wrote on Twitter this afternoon…elected officials need vision; not just short-term election-cycle decisions. We didn’t get into this problem overnight. Unfortunately, we probably won’t get out of it overnight either.

Just another example of how officials must look to the greater good of our state and our people and not just re-election efforts.