Editorial: The jobless are ill-served

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 16, 2011

People whoíve lost their jobs shouldnít be treated like criminals, but requiring them to perform public service as a condition for receiving benefits would move uncomfortably in that direction.
A state Senate proposal, whose sponsors include Sen. Andrew Brock, would require jobless benefit recipients to perform five hours of volunteer community service per week after eight weeks of benefits, increasing to 10 hours of service per week after 52 weeks of benefits. Although proponents say itís not punishment for being unemployed, it sounds more like a sentence than an opportunity to ěgive back.î
If someone whoís unemployed wants to volunteer with a nonprofit or participate in a community project, it can be a great way to make new connections and even gain new skills. But it needs to be an act of free will, not a condition for benefits. Workers pay into the system, and if they lose their jobs, theyíre entitled to the benefits theyíve helped provide. They shouldnít have to earn them all over again.
When lawbreakers are sentenced to community service, itís because theyíve incurred a debt to society, and public service is a way to help make restitution. The jobless often have incurred debts, but they owe them to mortgage companies, doctors and utilities, not to society at large. They donít need to pay back the community; they need work that pays.