As part of our coverage of the 5th Congressional District election, The Herald is asking the candidates for their positions on key issues. The election is Nov. 2.
Q. If I'm a laid-off worker living in the 5th Congressional District, what should I have a right to expect in terms of assistance from the federal government?
John Spratt, Democratic incumbent
To help workers who lose their jobs due to a downturn in the economy, imports or disasters, federal aid is a safety net and a bridge to better times.
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In addition to supplying a safety net, these benefits are spent quickly and turned over, and help get a slumping economy going again.
Unemployment insurance: The basic benefit for unemployed workers is the unemployment compensation program run jointly by the states and federal government. Eligible workers can qualify for 26 weeks of payments. Extended unemployment compensation is available. This can supply benefits up to an additional 53 weeks.
Health coverage: Certain workers can continue to purchase health insurance through their previous employer's group plan, a benefit known as "COBRA." The Recovery Act provides subsidies to cover 65 percent of the employer-provided health insurance premium for workers who began unemployment before May 31.
Job search and training assistance: The Department of Labor's Employment Services offer career counseling, job search workshops, labor market information, job listings and referrals.
Means-tested programs: Depending on income and assets, some unemployed workers qualify can qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps), Medicaid or supplemental security income.
Mick Mulvaney, Republican challenger
If you've been laid off, you have a right to unemployment insurance. You also have a right to receive at least a partial continuation of your benefits. Every American can and should expect as much. We actually did a lot of good work in Columbia this year to ensure the long-term health of the unemployment insurance fund.
But should the "safety net" be turned into a hammock? Should we expect taxpayers to subsidize our paychecks for years? Absolutely not.
The simple truth is that there should not be an incentive for people to stay on public assistance. However, several businesses have told me they are having trouble rehiring the same folks that they were forced to lay off last year. The problem, they said, is that unemployment insurance pays some people almost as much to stay home as they were making at work. With roughly 14.5 percent unemployment in this district, and government spending out of control, that shocked me.
One thing we will need to do next year is reinstate the welfare reforms that were eliminated by the stimulus bill.Most folks haven't heard about how the stimulus bill ended many of the positive Clinton-era reforms. Yes, the "stimulus" bill actually undid those reforms and reinstated an incentive for states to add people to the welfare rolls, and keep them there. So, in many ways, the stimulus that was supposed to put people back to work actually keeps unemployment higher.