I’m sure this comes as no surprise.
If you lose your job in Texas, you may be out of luck in more ways than one.
The Texas Workforce Commission rejected about a third of jobless claims last year and 27 percent the first half of this year. When jobless people appealed those initial decisions, their chances of winning this year were only about one in four.
The common reason for denials is Texas’ tight list of eligibility standards. The state under Gov. Rick Perry refused to expand them in law even when the federal government offered $555 million more in stimulus money in return. Perry said it would be bad for Texas in the long run.
“Texas has never made the changes necessary to reflect the changing work force, so our unemployment system is still based on the model where daddy goes to work at the factory at the same place for 40 years,” the Texas AFL-CIO’s Rick Levy said. “Now, fewer and fewer people work like that, but our eligibility determinations are still based on that model, so a lot of people fall through the cracks.”
In addition, when employers appeal benefit decisions, they’re more likely to win than jobless people who appeal denials. Appeals of staff decisions first go to an agency tribunal of upper-level staff, then to the three-member, Perry-appointed commission.
“I think that the (governor’s) appointees have had a general bias toward the business point of view in these matters,” Levy said.
I think the fact that the Senate passed a bill to expand unemployment insurance eligibility and thus accept the stimulus funds suggests that this is something that could be changed when we finally get a new Governor. No guarantee, as I’m sure many of the Republicans in the Senate were swayed by the economics of taking the federal funds versus borrowing a bunch of money to make up for the shortfall, but it’s at least possible. Interestingly, this may be relevant in the next session.
As Perry fends off jabs by foes including GOP U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Democrat Tom Schieffer over rejecting the additional stimulus money, the campaign could make a difference. Texas has until Aug. 22, 2011, after the next regular legislative session, to apply for the stimulus funds for jobless benefits if lawmakers and leaders decide to make the necessary changes in benefits.
I don’t remember hearing this before now, but it’s nice to know we could get a second bite at the apple. I just hope we’re in a position to take advantage of it.