Down And Out In Brentioch, Tennessee
I'm lucky, I guess. I've made it for 36.5 years without having to file unemployment. For obvious reasons, that's one of the things on Hubs' to-do list, and I have to say that I'm speechless.
I have car insurance. If the car is damaged, the insurance pays to fix it, less a deductable. If the car is totalled, I get the value of the car at the time of the accident.
I have homeowners' insurance. If my house is damaged, the insurance pays the cost of replacing the house, minus the land. (We're assuming here that land neither burns down nor is blown away, ruined forever by floods or stolen from under the house.)
I have health insurance. If I go to the doctor, the insurance pays the bill, less my deductable.
That, my friends, is how insurance is supposed to work. It is supposed to replace or nearly replace what you've lost.
Not so with Unemployment Insurance in the state of Tennessee. According to the rulebook you are supposed to receive weekly benefits equal to half your weekly pay amount for up to 26 weeks. That doesn't sound so bad, right?
Hah! Fooled ya! Here in Tennessee, we cap that weekly amount at $275.00. For the record, that's the equivalent of a salary of $28,600. The median household income for the State of Tennessee is $38,945. I think I've found my new political crusade. I personally believe that the cap on Unemployment Benefits needs to more realistically reflect the earnings "insured" by the program. The cap should be raised at least to $375.00 per week. That's half the weekly earnings for the median income within the state.
Granted, I'm up in arms about this right now because it's affecting me personally, but I really am thinking about the larger picture. The number of personal bankruptcies filed in Tennessee is legendary. We usually have the highest number of filings per year. Among the top reasons cited for filing is "loss of job." Clearly our unemployment insurance is inadequate for the majority of Tennesseans.
When a person has a job, they take on financial obligations. Mortgages, utlities, car payments, credit card debt. The higher a person's income, the greater their capacity for financial committment. If a job is lost, there is no way to meet those committments. The original thinking behind unemployment insurance was that it would be good for the community as well as the individual. If Joe has a credit account at your store and he loses his job he can't pay you. So your store suffers and your creditors suffer as well. Next thing you know, everybody's bankrupt--which means nobody else gets their money. And the cycle continues.
By keeping the unemployment benefits capped at a ridiculously low amount, Tennessee is keeping itself behind the financial 8-ball.
We personally are fortunate in that we have no credit cards, no car payment and some savings. We should be able to weather the storm without too much damage. But change one element of that equation--toss in a few credit cards or a car payment--and things would be bound to get ugly fast.
I'm a fan of bankruptcy in that it beats Debtor's Prison hands down. It's better for the economy because it encourages people to take risk and it's better for society in that it offers us a fiscal safety net when life spirals out of control. But I'm sure most people who file bankruptcy would rather have had a little bit better coverage from their Unemployment benefits.