Metro

R.I. officials look at unemployment

Reed proposes bill to extend unemployment insurance, Chafee backs minimum wage hike

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 11, 2014

As the national unemployment rate inches back toward pre-crisis figures, Rhode Island’s rate has followed the general trend. But the state’s stubbornly high unemployment distinguishes it from national progress. As lawmakers attempt to identify the cause of the Ocean State’s struggles, a range of proposed solutions from public officials have emerged in recent months, including a minimum wage hike and unemployment insurance bill sponsored by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.

When the national unemployment rate hit its peak of 10 percent in October 2009, it was still nearly two percentage points below Rhode Island’s peak of 11.9 percent, which occurred in January 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics website.

While the national unemployment rate this January stood at only 6.6 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Rhode Island’s rate was 9.2 percent, according to the R.I. Department of Labor and Training.

Raising the federal minimum wage, one of President Obama’s recent initiatives, has garnered support from New England governors, including Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 P’17. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, and Rhode Island’s minimum wage is $8 per hour as of Jan. 1. Rhode Island was one of six states to increase its individual minimum wage since Obama first called for a federal increase in early 2013. And Chafee was one of several Northeastern governors to pledge Wednesday to raise their state’s wages to at least the $10.10 minimum proposed by Obama, in support of the campaign, the Associated Press reported.

The Minimum Wage Fairness Act, co-sponsored by Reed, would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over two years. Increasing the federal minimum would “put money back into the economy, increasing demand for goods and services and creating jobs,” Reed said in a statement sent to The Herald.

“Theoretically, we think that unemployment should go up when the minimum wage goes up,” said Nathaniel Baum-Snow, associate professor of economics and urban studies. But “the empirical evidence on this, I would say, is somewhat mixed. … It’s hard to determine whether there’s more unemployment when you raise the minimum wage,” he said.

Raising the minimum wage would also affect the labor market unevenly with a particularly negative effect on the lowest-wage earners, Baum-Snow said.“It makes it more costly for firms to hire workers, and (for) the people who would be willing to work for less than the minimum wage,” he said. “They don’t end up getting jobs.”

But Reed said a minimum wage hike is crucial to building a stronger middle class. “If Congress is serious about building ladders of opportunity and pathways to progress for the middle class, raising the minimum wage is one of the single most important investments we can make,” he said in the statement.

Though raising the minimum wage has commonly been proposed as a solution to income inequality issues, Baum-Snow said this would not necessarily ameliorate the effects for those with a high school education or less — a segment of the labor market that has experienced steady wage decreases since the 1980s.

“There’s a bigger underlying fundamental that there’s just less demand by firms to hire people without much education,” he said.  “Because of that, they can offer less, and I think that sort of thing is only going to be exacerbated if we arbitrarily make them pay more to these people.”

Implementing the Minimum Wage Fairness Act would cut an estimated 500,000 jobs while increasing the earnings of about 16.5 million people, according to a Congressional Budget Office report.

“The proposal is more likely to serve as a rallying cry for Democrats in the approaching election than to be adopted by Congress in the foreseeable future,” the Providence Journal reported last week, adding that Democrats hope the bill “will appeal to economically squeezed voters in November’s midterm elections.”

Reed also filed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act last Tuesday, which would retroactively extend unemployment insurance for “more than two million job-seeking Americans, including about 8,000 Rhode Islanders,” Reed said in the statement.

Emergency unemployment insurance expired Dec. 28. The legislation would also extend unemployment insurance by six months.

“The most recent Senate vote on a three-month unemployment insurance fix fell one Republican vote short of the necessary 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster,” Reed said in the statement.

“If Congress fails to act this year, … 21,700 Rhode Islanders will be cut off, and it will also mean 1,284 fewer jobs in Rhode Island,” he added.

  • KYMINER

    there stupid so what if they raise it everything else just goes up and it usually ends up worse for the already poor

    • ArchStone Tile

      They’re stupid!

  • Uork Publi

    Yes but BDH headlines this as “looking” at unemployment. Wow these guys must have Brown education. They think it’s enough to “look”. Ruth and Chris, you fail.

  • armyone

    Well its become survival time.i can’t get a job I can’t get unemployment. The only thing left is making money illegally. If it does not pass they will have them selves to blame for a rise in crime.

  • Prolapse

    …….speechless

  • mitch

    Everybody please call n write our sens n reps today. I sent four letters out n four emails r including mcconnell n boehner. Our votes matter.

    • kiontra

      Where do we write and email??

  • Zack

    READERS AND CONTRIBUTORS, I RESPECTFULLY ASK THAT YOU DO NOT WASTE ANY MORE TIME STATING YOUR OPINION, POINTING FINGERS AT OUR CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS OR SHARING YOUR PERSONAL HARDSHIP STORY…TAKE ACTION INSTEAD. AS UPSETTING AS THESE PERSONAL STORIES OF FINANCIAL HARDSHIP AND STRUGGLE ARE TO ME, THEY WILL HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IMPACT ON THE PASSING OF THE BILL BECAUSE SENATORS DO NOT READ MESSAGE BOARDS. THEIR STAFF LISTENS TO SHORT, SUCCINCT AND RESPECTFUL/PROFESSIONAL VOICE MESSAGES AND READS EMAILS AND LETTERS FROM REAL PEOPLE WHO INCLUDE THEIR FULL NAME, LOCATION, AND PHONE NUMBER. THEN THEY SUMMARIZE THE # OF MESSAGES FROM STRUGGLING CITIZENS WHO SUPPORT THE BILL, ALONG WITH SOME COMMON STORIES (SOMEONE’S CHILDREN GOING WITHOUT FOOD, AN ELDERLY VETERAN WITH NO HEAT IN A COLD MONTH, ETC.). THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO HAVE AN IMPACT, FOLKS. YOU COULD SPEND ALL DAY COMMENTING ON ARTICLES, OR YOU COULD TAKE A COUPLE HOURS AND CALL, EMAIL AND WRITE THE BELOW 7 HIGHLY INFLUENTIAL SENATORS WHO WILL ULTIMATELY DECIDE THE FATE OF THESE BILLS, AND ACTUALLY MAKE AN IMPACT. DO THIS TODAY OR TOMORROW, SO YOUR MESSAGE WILL BE RECEIVED BY THE SENATORS PRIOR TO NEXT WEEK’S BILL INTRODUCTIONS.

    I’VE OUTLINED BELOW, IN BULLETS, EXACTLY WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP PUSH A BILL THROUGH. I’VE PROVIDED SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS AND CONTACT INFO TO MAKE IT AS EASY AS POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO HELP SHOW SUPPORT, AND HELP PERSUADE CONGRESS TO ACT NOW.

    USE THE BELOW LETTER AS A GUIDELINE/TEMPLATE, AND CALL, EMAIL AND WRITE THE BELOW 7 SENATORS WHO WILL BE MOST INFLUENTIAL IN PASSING AN UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENSION BILL. LIKE YOU’LL SEE IN THIS LETTER, THE MESSAGE IS RESPECTFUL, SHORT, INCLUDES SEVERAL SUPPORTING FACTS (COULD BE YOUR PERSONAL HARDSHIPS, STORY, OR STORY OF A STRUGGLING FRIEND) AND ENDS WITH A SIMPLE PLEA AND REQUEST FOR THE SENATOR TO PASS A BILL AND GET US HELP.

    http://nolan.house.gov/sites/nolan.house.gov/files/Veterans_Unemployment_Insurance_Letter_030614.pdf

    • Call Senator Rob Portman
    of Ohio at 202-224-3353, email at
    https://www.portman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact-form
    and write The Honorable Rob Portman United States Senate 448 Russell Senate Office Building Washington,
    D.C. 20510-3504

    • Call Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois at 202-224-2854, email at
    http://www.kirk.senate.gov/?p=comment_on_legislation
    and write The Honorable Mark Kirk United State Senate 524 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC,
    20510

    • Call Senator Dan Coats of Indiana at 202-224-5623, email at
    http://www.coats.senate.gov/contact/
    and write The Honorable Dan Coats United State Senate 493 Russell Office Bldg Washington, DC, 20510

    • Call Senator Susan Collins of Maine at 202-224-2523, email at
    http://www.collins.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email
    and write The Honorable Susan Collins United State Senate 413 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510

    • Call Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska at 202-224-6665, email at
    http://www.murkowski.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=EMailLisa
    and write The Honorable Lisa Murkowski United States Senate 709 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510-0202

    • Call Speaker John Boehner at 202-225-0600, email at
    http://www.speaker.gov/contact
    and write The Honorable John Boehner Office of the Speaker United States Senate H-232 The Capitol Washington, DC 20515

    • Call US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at 202-224-3542, email at
    http://www.reid.senate.gov/contact
    and write The Honorable Harry Reid United States Senate 522 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510

    • Sign the bill support petition http://wh.gov/lm4Es

    IMPORTANT: IN YOUR CORRESPONDENCE, BE PASSIONATE AND CONVEY THE SENSE OF URGENCY FOR THEM TO EXPEDITE THIS TO THE FLOOR AND TAKE AN UP/DOWN VOTE, BUT REMEMBER TO DO IT IN A PROFESSIONAL AND RESPECTFUL MANNER. IF YOU ARE RUDE, DISRESPECTFUL, CONDESCENDING, AND/OR YOUR CORRESPONDENCE CONTAINS PROFANITY, IT WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE FILTERED OUT OR THROWN OUT AND NOT READ.

    PLEASE TAKE THE ABOVE ACTIONS EARLY THIS WEEK, MON-WED AT THE LATEST, SO THESE 7 SENATORS WILL RECEIVE YOUR MESSAGE BEFORE CONGRESS INTRODUCES THESE BILLS AND DECIDES ON A VOTE!IT’S URGENT YOU DO THE ABOVE STEPS IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS.

    WILL YOU HELP ME BY DOING THE ABOVE, AND SPREADING THIS MESSAGE AS FAR AND WIDE AS YOU CAN ONLINE AND VIA SOCIAL MEDIA? IF SO, I APPLAUD YOUR EFFORTS AND THANK YOU ON BEHALF OF ALL THE SOME 1.5 MILLION WHO ARE LONG-TERM EMPLOYED AND HAVE NOT RECEIVED ANY FINANCIAL AID SINCE DEC. I ALSO THANK YOU FOR CONSIDERING THE MILLIONS OF CHILDREN WHO LIVE IN THOSE HOUSEHOLDS, AND THE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF VETERANS WHO ARE INCLUDED WITHIN THAT 1.5 MILLION NUMBER, WHO I THINK EVERYONE WOULD AGREE WE OWE BETTER. TAKE ACTION TODAY! PLEASE HELP ME IN MY EFFORTS. I CANNOT DO THIS ALONE. I DESPERATELY NEED YOUR HELP. 1.5 MILLION HUMAN BEINGS NEED YOUR HELP. CALL, EMAIL, AND WRITE THE LETTERS THIS EVENING. MAIL THE LETTERS TOMORROW AND REQUIRE CONFIRMATION SIGNATURE OF RECEIPT.

    • Joseph Bayless

      Waste of time people……..It won’t even be considered in the house of reps. I agree as far as quit commenting on articles like this about your woes. Nobody who needs to read them ever will, only the others suffering will. Your senators don’t care. Your reps. don’t care. Your president DOESN’T CARE. How many more times do you need to be slapped in the mouth? They only care about themselves and their wallets. You can vote them out of office in November, but they will still be set for life financially, so guess what???? They don’t care. Don’t get me wrong, the dems are the same heartless types. Boehner and Reid are only playing for votes, not for you! Wake up people.

    • Joseph Bayless

      Why do we owe veterans more?? They had a job just like the rest of us. Not everyone who serves is a hero……ask them, and they will tell you such themselves. Just because you went to Iraq or Afghanistan for awhile does not make a soldier a hero. I respect our military, the active and the veterans, but the real heroes are the men and women who returned from Korea and Vietnam, being spit on and disrespected. The real heroes are the world war 2 vets. that saw combat. Not every soldier is a hero.

      • Mary

        Hey loser, firstly, returning Korean war vets didn’t get spit on. Vietnam war vets did, by jumped up jerks like you. Our military is paid very little. When the draft was ended, protecting wannabe elitist hypocrites like you from ever being called to serve in the event of a war, soldiers were promised that while their wages were low, they’d be educated, have health coverage, a good pension and benefits in case they are injured in the line of duty. Our soldiers do not start wars, they don’t get to pick and choose, and war is not a “job”. You don’t come home from a “job” maimed, or dead, “jobs” are not being shot at, bombed, etc.. 24/7. Right now we have US vets who have been fighting 2 wars, being returned to the frontline, more times than is fair for years. To top it off, since 2009, the coward in the whitehouse has changed the ROE, rules of engagement, tying their hands behind their backs. They are not allowed to shoot back if fired upon, except under a few circumstances. In many zones, are denied their weapons, which has lead to the huge increase of troop fatalities in Afghanistan The men and women who join the military are heroes, they do so to protect and serve. I get such a laugh out of you tinpot hypocrites at Brown, sitting in your comfortable homes, overfed, getting drunk, you don’t even get real grades, you special snowflakes, yet you have the gall to attack US veterans, who far from asking for an increase are opposing the cuts to the already small pensions disabled veterans get. The cuts were made to subsidize illegal aliens with more benefits. You know, the ones mommy hires to scrub the skid marks out of your undies, and do her housework for her, while she’s out at yoga, drum circle, or getting yet more plastic surgery

    • geo rubino

      thanks for the contact information, i have sent them all a short to the point letter asking them to pass this bill. i hope others do the same.
      regards,
      george rubino

  • kiontra

    They say if people want to eat they will find a way….so with no job people are left to attempt illegal acts just to survive. A shame on america. Obama clearly got punked and embarrassed
    by the hangover man. Although i dont agree with that, its just amazing how powerless our countrys leader is acting…..here me when i say ACTING.

  • Robin Collins

    Govt does not care about you sheeple so sit back and take it till your ready to put a stop to the BS…..

  • dan

    Never vote REPUBLICAN again…..

  • chris

    Just saying people waiting for the republicans to help americans in need..sorry but thats not gonna happen. They won’t help unless obama care is gone and they could careless if american families are force out on the streets…its all about the rich in america

  • Lawrence

    Boehner you better have stronger security than the Pope. We’re coming for your head. You will never get a full night sleep again. Every sound you hear, you’ll be wondering if its “them”. We are going to rape your family like you did to mine. Then I take all your medications, your assets, and your pride, just like you did to us.

  • mike

    As an ex employee of the CIA I can truly tell you that the govt does not care about anyone but themselves. I have seen things that the govt has done that would make you absolutly sick to your stomach. The govt is involved in so many illegal activitys that I’m sure most of you are aware of and so many that you don’t and won’t ever hear about including murder, yes murder. So to all you that hope the govt cares about your needs I’m here to tell you they DON’T! How I wish I could tell the American people the dirty filthy things the American govt does and is involved in. The Amerian govt is the most evil form of mafia ever established