Picture this scenario:
Your longtime job of 10 years laid you off. You were making an honest $40,000. Suddenly, you’re thrown into the same lot as thousands of other Floridians — unemployed with no job prospects. Hesitant, you apply for unemployment benefits. A few weeks later, you receive a check for $275. You look for work, online and off, unsuccessfully. After two months, belts tighten more. Your meager savings is almost depleted. The bills are piling up. You stop driving around filling out random applications, trying to save the gas for actual interviews or referrals.
Then, one morning while drinking day-old coffee, you read in the local newspaper that the Florida Legislature has mandated that you find an organization and work for them. For free. No money for gas or child care.
Call it volunteering.
That’s the latest unemployment-related bill — that does nothing to fix unemployment, by the way — from state Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican. She’s the sponsor of HB 509, which is currently in the Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee.
The bill reads, in part:
(1) An unemployed individual is eligible to receive 13 benefits for any week only if the Agency for Workforce 14 Innovation finds that:
(i) She or he has volunteered for a minimum of 4 hours for 16 that week with a nonprofit organization, as defined in s. 17 443.1312(1), of her or his choosing. The individual must submit 18 a letter to the Agency for Workforce Innovation on the 19 letterhead of the nonprofit organization that confirms that she 20 or he has performed at least 4 hours of volunteer service that 21 week. An individual with a disability, as described in s. 22 393.063(9) or s. 413.08(1)(b), is exempt from the requirements 23 of this paragraph.
Ironically, if passed, many of the folks affected by this bill would probably be forced to use the services of the agency they volunteered at. Hey, if you’re already at the food bank, might as well help unload the trucks, right?
Rep. Passidomo told ABC Action News, that volunteering could lead to a job. Which would be true if Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the rest of politicians in Tallahassee were not cutting money for these same social service organizations.
Unemployment in Florida has surpassed 12 percent. It’s already one of the stingiest states with a maximum weekly benefit of $275. Other proposals by Florida’s politicians include decreasing the benefit period by six weeks. And now Rep. Passidomo wants already cash-strapped people, down on their luck through no fault of their own, to work for free (or even pay out money themselves)?
Volunteering is a great endeavor and I know people who have used their unemployed time to volunteer for causes they believe in. But requiring it is ridiculous, uncompassionate and possibly against federal law.
Rating: 4 teabags