Denying Unemployment Benies

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I think people are laboring under the impression that this is a hand-out to people who don't work. In fact to qualify for unemployment, you have been working and thus have paid money into the very system that you're petitioning for help. It's true that you don't want to create an incentive for people to simply sit home. But there's something sick about attempting to deny unemployment insurance to people who've spent their working lives being taxed for that very insurance:


For people like Henry Kight, 59, of Austin, Tex., the possibility that the money might be turned down is a deeply personal issue.

Mr. Kight, who worked for more than three decades as an engineering technician, discovered in September that because of complex state rules, he was not eligible for unemployment insurance after losing a job at a major electronics manufacturer he had landed at the beginning of the year.

Unable to draw jobless benefits, he and his wife have taken on thousands of dollars in credit-card debt to help make ends meet...

Mr. Kight and other unemployed workers said they were incensed to learn they were living in one of a handful of states -- many of them among the poorest in the nation -- that might not provide the expanded benefits...

In Mr. Kight's case, he was unemployed for the second half of 2007, after losing an earlier job he had at a different electronics manufacturer in a downsizing. As a result, when he applied for unemployment benefits, he did not have enough immediate work history to qualify.

"I have worked for so many years, a total of probably 30 years, contributing to the support system that helps people when they get in a tough spot like I'm in," Mr. Kight said. "I haven't needed it too much in the past, but I sure could use it right now."

I don't have the knowledge of economics to really go at this, but it's striking to me that it is the poorest states in the union, that are doing their best to deprive their citizens of federal dollars. What a scene.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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