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Jobless benefits need long-term help

Job seekers stand in a long line.

TEXT OF STORY

Stacey Vanek-Smith: Unemployment benefits are stretched to the limit across much of the country. More than 30 states, including California, Texas and New York have had to get money from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits out to people who've lost their jobs. Today, lawmakers are talking about how to fund the system long-term. Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports.


Eve Troeh: The Golden State leads the pack in borrowing for unemployment. H.D. Palmer is a spokesperson for the California Department of Finance. He says the tab was more than $7 billion last year. This year is worse.

H.D. Palmer: We're gonna have to more than double our borrowing from Washington to about $18.4 billion.

Unemployment insurance is paid to the state by employers. Palmer says California can't pay the bill on its own until more people are working.

Andrew Stettner is with the National Employment Law Project. He says more jobs will help, but the real problem is that most states don't ask employers to kick in enough for unemployment insurance.

Andrew Stettner: If an auto insurance company set its rates like it was insuring a fleet of Escorts but it was really insuring a fleet of Cadillacs, they'd go out of business. That's kinda where we are at with state unemployment insurance financing.

Stettner's speaking to Congress today. He'll argue that states need to require that employers pay more. California spokesperson H.D. Palmer says for a state nervous about losing more jobs, that's a hard sell.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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