The recent dialogue on Capitol Hill about the extension of unemployment benefits is the perfect time to step back and reassess the true benefit of unemployment benefits. The fundamental intention of the program remains the same: to provide a supplemental financial bridge in between employment. But I see people turning down part time work because they think it will negatively affect their benefits, I see job seekers’ sense of urgency change when they are notified they have received an extension and I see those in transition not even start looking for a job until their benefits almost expire. The “99 weekers”, those who have been receiving unemployment benefits for almost 2 years have now found it even more difficult to get hired because prospective employers view them as stall. So it begs the question, are unemployment benefits hindering return to work?
On the other hand, unemployment benefits help workers return to work because those unemployed get a new lease on life because the supplemental funds have given them time to learn a new craft, sharpen their skills and launch planful job searches. Without these opportunities, they wouldn’t be able to compete in the job market.
My advice to job seekers is to search for a job every day with a sense of urgency as if they didn’t have potentially 99 weeks of a cash cushion. Work, in any form and fashion is fundementally good on many levels. And it is important to know the definition of “benefit”, otherwise it would be called paid vacation.