Equality State Policy Center director Dan Neal speaks out against on the rejection of HB 244, which would have circulated nearly $38 million into Wyoming’s economy through unemployed workers. Neal argues that the average $250 per unemployed worker for 13 weeks is hardly a gravy train.

The defeat of HB 244 means Wyoming will not see close to $38 million in available federal funds circulate through our economy. Instead, workers who fall into poverty when their benefits run out will be forced to turn to programs such as Medicaid and food stamps to take care of their families – programs whose growth disturbs many of the same legislators who voted against HB 244.

The bill would have brought about $24 million in extended unemployment insurance benefits for 13 weeks to workers who exhaust their ordinary unemployment benefits between March 15, 2011 and Jan. 1, 2012. Sponsor Rep. Cathy Connolly (D-HD13, Laramie) said the measure, funded fully by the federal government following Congress’ December decision to again fund extended benefits, would help 7,500 workers survive the recession after losing their jobs through no fault of their own.

Take a look at the arithmetic: $24 million divided by 7,500 workers divided by 13 weeks of extended benefits means the average check for a worker getting these benefits would be less than $250 per week, hardly a gravy train. It’s difficult to provide food and housing for a single person on that income; supporting a family of four would not be possible in Wyoming.

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