Monday, November 19, 2012

Mass. Public Employees- Your Tax Dollars at Work? – The “Costly Loopholes” that allow Public Employees to Collect Unemployment – Even Amherst Has Issues!!!



(Click on Image to Enlarge.)

From Gov. Deval Patrick's task force - the Total Charges for Unemployment paid out by Cities and Towns for Public Employees from 2005 to August 2012 -image from PDF Task force at Mass.gov.

There were reports from the Boston Herald back on March 7th 2012, titled: “Official: Public workers’ questionable jobless benefits add up” - speaking to municipalities who must pay public employees, including temporary election officials unemployment benefits, which come out of the Town or City’s tax revenues. The article and letters from twenty six towns got the attention of Governor Deval Patrick, who got a task force going to find out the scope of the problem and recommend changes.

The task force and the Governor are now “promising to close the costly loopholes that allow public employees to collect unemployment benefits while also drawing a paycheck form the city or town they work for! according to the Lowell Sun. November 16, 2012. Those on the task force included: State Labor Secretary Joanne Goldstein, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, state Sen. Dan Wolf, D-Harwich, state Rep. David Torrisi, D-North Andover, Massachusetts Taxpayers Association President Michael Widmer, retired Appeals Court judge Raya Dreben, Massachusetts Teachers Association President Paul Toner and Massachusetts AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Jennifer Springer. The Tax force was addressing the following classifications that are currently eligible to receive Unemployment (and will be until the legislature address the issue): Public employees with pensions of $53,920, who return to work, earn salary up to 900 plus hours, then quit, and collect UIC, Teachers who collect UIC while being paid by the municipality, School Bus Drivers and Crossing Guards who count every day, including Black Friday toward UIC, and the “kicker” – Election Officials, who list their “stipend” (for working the election) on UIC claims.

The Task force concluded, after reviewing claims from 2002 forward, that it was a small percentage of the workforce that was taking advantage of loopholes, although when one reviews the report submitted by the task force it is a real eye-opener. What is most surprising is that only 26 of the Commonwealth’s Cities and Towns expressed a desire to halt the practice and those Cities and Towns were reviewed. When one reads the report available here at mass.gov, in PDF one finds that the towns in 2012 (through August) had a total of $32,016,151.32 in Unemployment Claims “charged” by public employees.(Page 89 of 102)

Now it is understandable if someone is collecting a small pension, is over 65 and working part time, that they may not be able to meet expenses, considering inflation of food and fuel (which is not counted by the Federal Government as it is considered “too volatile”.) Therefore, if someone has a pension of $35,000 annually and is not eligible for Social Security compensation (as is the case for most government employees – in some cases they are eligible but for a smaller percentage of their overall SSI benefits, which, are reduced even if that individual worked thirty years outside of the Federal Government) they should, if working full time, and find themselves laid off, be able to collect unemployment. That said, if someone is making a decent pension, then working in their previous field to fill a “need” by the government, that additional salary should be considered a bonus.

The fact that election officials, those who work the week of an election, are collecting unemployment insurance based on $1,000 in stipends, boggles the mind. $32,016,511.32 in unemployment claims filed by public employees in all Massachusetts towns and hamlets, for half of 2012 – while most homeowners and taxpayers that are left in said communities are having problems buying hamburger at the grocery store leaves one without words.(Almost)

It is not that teachers, or safety workers, or school bus drivers, or crossing guards are intentionally bilking you and yours, it’s a law that allows this to happen. Add to that the fact that due to the Federal Government extending unemployment insurance for years, and what’s a public employee to do? They follow the law and collect. (That’s sarcasm in case one is interested.) One would think that teachers, especially, would be smart enough or moral enough to understand they get three months of paid vacation (summer), in which they can work part time if they choose. Apparently not. The fore, first the city or town kicks in (because they have to) according to state law, then they have to kick in further, due to Federal Laws. Is it any wonder our cities are broke? Is it any wonder in some cities and towns they cannot afford to give the students “text books” due to the expense? Perhaps the aforementioned resolves the questions as to why our students are so - uneducated.

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