Assembly 2011: AARP pushes for ending reduced unemployment for seniors
Members of the AARP are asking legislators to end the policy of reduced unemployment benefits for seniors who lose their job ... and Democrats from both chambers are introducing bills to guarantee non-discrimination policies for the state’s workforce.
Representatives of the AARP came to the state capitol yesterday with a simple message: Be fair to older workers.
AARP State Director Bill Caleo.
Caleo: If you live in Virginia, one of four states left in the United States right now and you are working full time and collecting Social Security and then get laid off due to no fault of your own, you’re going to be surprised to find out that you don’t have the same protection through the unemployment insurance system that all other workers do.
In Virginia over the years, we’ve been working to eliminate what's called the social security unemployment offset. Basically, what that does is reduce a person’s unemployment check by 50 percent of their social security check, today affecting over 34,000 Virginians who continue to work as they get older.
The policy was eliminated in 2005, but with a provision that would reinstate the practice should the state’s unemployment trust fund drop below 50 percent solvency.
Bills to again undo this practice have already passed the state Senate, and Democratic Delegates Jim Shuler of Montgomery and Jennifer McClellan of Richmond are patroning the bills in the House. Delegate McClellan says she's optimistic the bills will pass her chamber.
McClellan: What people fail to recognize is every penny that we pay in unemployment compensation goes back into the economy, because people are going to the grocery store, they’re paying their bills, seniors are buying medication, so it’s not just going in a black hole somewhere. It is being reinvested in the economy that otherwise those bills wouldn’t get paid, those groceries wouldn’t get bought.
For the second consecutive session, Democratic Senator Don McEachin of Richmond has introduced legislation that would ban discriminatory hiring practices for state workers. McEachin first offered the bill as a reaction to a policy change by incoming Governor Bob McDonnell. Unlike his two democratic predecessors, Governors Warner and Kaine, Governor McDonnell did not introduce a non-discrimination executive order that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
McEachin’s bill passed in the Senate but was ultimately killed in a House subcommittee. He says he believes the proposal will get more support this year, with several moderate Republicans speaking out in favor of it.
McEachin: We’ve seen encouraging signs from the House in terms of the bills that are being offered there and some of the private conversations I’ve had with members of the House of Delegates. But let me say this to my colleagues in both the Senate and the House: It is time to take this issue off the table. Our children expect that of us. They’re going to have a lot of work to do when they replace us eventually. Let's not let this be one of those pieces of work. They have shown us through their demonstrations, through their pleadings, through everything that they've done on this issue over the years that they expect a change and they’re ready for that change. Let's pave the way for them; let's make life a little bit easier for them before they have to step up and be the policymakers and leaders of tomorrow.
Although Republican Delegate Tom Rust of Fairfax has offered similar legislation and support continues to build among House Republicans, the challenge this year will once again be passage through subcommittee, where it died on a party line vote next year.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square