Living in Society


State Capitol

Last night the Iowa Legislature considered and passed a bill to cut unemployment benefits in the state. Both the House and Senate approved a measure, although the chambers differ on whether there will be a one week waiting period before benefits commence. A version of the bill will pass before adjournment sine die.

I was fortunate to make it through 54 years in the workforce without filing unemployment. My work life can be characterized as stable, although I changed jobs a lot, mostly because I wanted or needed to for various reasons. Work life radically changed since the 1970s, especially after the election of Ronald Reagan as president. What Iowa Republicans are doing is wrong.

Iowa Capitol Dispatch reported last night:

If signed into law, House File 2355 will make several immediate changes for Iowans on unemployment.

Unemployment benefits will last only 16 weeks, rather than the current maximum of 26 weeks. Iowans will also have a one-week waiting period before they receive their first payment under the Senate’s version of the bill.

Unemployed Iowans may need to accept a lower-paying job sooner in the process to continue receiving unemployment benefits. Under current law, an individual would not be required to take a lower-paying job offer for the first five weeks of employment. The bill would change that, ratcheting down the definition of “acceptable” job beginning in the second week of unemployment.

Iowa Capitol Dispatch, March 23, 2022.

My decisions about filing for unemployment were a recognition of the privilege in which I came up. If I was eligible for benefits, I took pride in finding my own way without them. There was never fear of falling behind financially. When I left a job on my own, I carefully considered the consequences and made a financial plan which worked in every case. Not everyone is so lucky.

With Republican majorities in both chambers of the legislature, they can pass whatever laws they want. The Republican governor is unlikely to veto. If there is a single pattern, it is their desire to re-create what living in Iowa means. I know what it means to me. It is treating working people with respect that is anyone’s due. Obviously, Republicans don’t feel the same.