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State Of California To Add Insult, Injury To List Of Unemployment Benefits

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Are you a recent victim of the Bush recession? Hoping to finally cash in on those (extremely meager) unemployment benefits you've been accumulating?

Better hope your cell phone bill is paid up:

In January, with the unemployment rate nearing 6%, nearly 12.6 million calls were placed to the state's toll-free phone number to apply for unemployment insurance benefits. But more than three-fifths never got through. Frank Hartzell knows the problem all too well. A laid-off Mendocino County social services worker, he tried calling morning and afternoon, 45 times in December. The computer hung up every time until No. 46, and he was able to apply.

Of course it bears mention that with the sharp increase in unemployment and the State of California in the midst of a
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massive budget crunch, there's going to be a longer than normal wait time to arrange the sickly financial methadone that will, most likely, only barely keep you out of the homeless shelter. Even so, one might think that a competently run government would foresee such problems and try to prevent them.

Too bad the joke's on Jane and Joe taxpayer. As it turns out, the system was apparently designed to inconvenience.

Poor customer service has been the norm in recent years at the department. Four years ago, a Schwarzenegger-administration government-overhaul plan noted that "as many as 50% of the callers into their call centers receive a busy signal creating an irritating situation." The outlook could get worse. Last week the number of unemployment claims jumped 21% to 40,000, compared with the same week in 2007, and the state's unemployment rate rose to 5.7% in February from 5% a year earlier. On Friday the U.S. Labor Department reported that 80,000 nonfarm jobs were lost in March, the biggest decline in five years.

Of course, this is just one of many wonderful ways that the unemployed worker is screwed. Other screw methods include:

* A maximum time limit that appears to have been created specifically to worsen economic crises: "Benefits can be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks in most States." This length of time might be increased in times of mass economic hardship, but that increase will still have an artificial limit. (In other words, better hope the depression ends in 18 months.)

Obviously, anyone who can't find a new job in that length of time is a lazy Welfare cheat. Obviously.

* Taxes. You read that correctly. Not only are you literally begging the government for money you are supposedly entitled to, not only does this money come with an artificially imposed time limit that is unlikely to take the actual economic picture into account, and not only are you making a fraction for your former income. You'll still owe taxes. And guess what? They aren't withheld. SUPRISE!

Imagine finding out you owe money one money you didn't earn because you used other money that you supposedly received for hardship purposes to pay rent or buy food. Yikes! This doesn't even get into the bigger issue of how the tax code leans far more heavily on the middle class and poor than on the rich. Because doing so means you love the terrorists. Traitor.

* Hoping to use your time off to make yourself more employable? Ha ha, suck it braniac! There's a good chance that taking college classes will cause you to lose your benefits. Sure, there are some circumstances under which this isn't the case, but be warned - the state has a vested interest in denying benefits. So it's not going to be easy. And guess what? If your income in the previous tax year was awesome, even if you're destitute now, you probably won't qualify for financial aid.

Basically, you can suck it, or suck it large. The choice is yours.

Long story short, you would be highly advised to do your research into Unemployment Benefits now, before you're one of the millions of Bush era Lucky Duckies. In the meantime, instead of wasting your Cell Phone minutes calling the Unemployment Office, (minutes that would be better served calling your friends and family while you can still afford a cell phone,) might we suggest the internet?

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