No one needs to forfeit their dignity in filing for unemployment, money their employers paid to the state through a mandate to ensure they would be taken care of if the need arises.


 

 


There’s never a good time to lose your job, but that is small comfort to the half-million Americans who lost their paychecks last month because of the sagging economy.


Making matters worse is when you not only have to suffer the indignity of filing an unemployment claim after years of working for your check, but on top of that, you are told after you arrive your claim cannot be processed because, according to findings in a Ledger story this past weekend, the lines are too long and you have to return the next day and hope you are one of the lucky ones before they put the “end of the line” signs up.


And it’s no better on the phones, where a recorded message tells claimants the phone lines are overwhelmed and they must call back at a better time. There is no indication when that time will be.


That is happening more and more in Massachusetts, and it is an unacceptable response to the growing loss of jobs. It also displays both a systemic insensitivity to the plight of workers losing their jobs and an extreme lack of foresight in dealing with the increased load, one which will only get bigger as the recession wears on.


The number of people seeking help from the state’s 35 walk-in unemployment offices more than doubled in October – the most recent month for which figures are available – from the same month last year, from 13,308 to 28,702 customers, according to the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The unemployment rate is at 5.5 percent in Massachusetts and shows no signs of abating.


At the Quincy Career Center, which is what the state calls its full-service resource centers for claims and job information, newly unemployed workers are told to take the paperwork home and fill it out and return the next day at least an hour before the doors open.


“Last Wednesday we opened the doors early, at 8 o’clock,” one agent, who did not want her named used, told the Ledger. “We already had 36 people waiting outside.”


In Brockton, which services some of the towns in our region, the number of people who use their services is on a pace to double from the 3,000 who went to the center in 2007.


Come January, with the end of the seasonal employment, for what it’s worth this year, and the uptick in December layoffs, it will only become worse.


It’s not like this is late-breaking news that people are losing their jobs and anyone who thinks Massachusetts is insulated from the economic squeeze is in denial. First-time claims for unemployment in Massachusetts have jumped more than 30 percent from a year ago, according to officials. These are, in many cases, people who have had long-term jobs and never had to seek unemployment before.


When Gov. Deval Patrick made his Chapter 9C budget cuts earlier this fall, he left the unemployment services of the labor and workforce office relatively intact, cutting $18 million primarily from summer jobs programs and workforce training grants.


But the administration has done nothing to indicate they were prepared for the onslaught and only now are marshalling more workers to service the needs of the newly unemployed.


No one needs to forfeit their dignity in filing for unemployment, money their employers paid to the state through a mandate to ensure they would be taken care of if the need arises.


Whatever it takes, the state has an obligation to put more people behind the counters and at the other end of the phones to help people through this crisis that is not of their own making.


The Patriot Ledger