Though statewide unemployment is at its lowest point in five years at 6.6 percent, nearly 228,000 people in Washington are still looking for work. More than 125,000 of those are claiming unemployment benefits.
Sixth District lawmakers Sen. Michael Baumgartner and Rep. Jeff Holy sponsored identical measures in the House and Senate to help bring those long-unemployed into the job market and re-connect them with their community. The bill would require those receiving unemployment benefits provide just eight hours a month of community service.
“This is a positive measure that will build communities and help the unemployed hone their job skills, network with potential employers and build self-esteem,” said Baumgartner, R-Spokane. “It’s an idea that came from two Snohomish high school students, who wanted to help the unemployed in their hometown find ways to keep busy and potentially land that next stable source of income. I’m really proud of these two girls, not only for coming up with the idea but for bringing it to the attention of the Legislature.”
“There are a lot of hopeless, discouraged people out there. Meaningful work, even if volunteer, can open up opportunities and connections to jobs for those who want to provide for their families,” said Holy, R-Cheney. “While the economic downturn has affected nearly everyone, we can and should reach out to our neighbors and our communities to provide help and hope. One of the greatest things we have learned from the generation living in the Great Depression was that they helped each other, no matter how bad their own circumstances were. It’s our generation’s turn to step up and help out, and hopefully that means everyone can benefit.”
The legislation has been referred to the Commerce and Labor Committee in the Senate and is awaiting referral to a committee in the House. The 2014 session is scheduled to adjourn March 13.