- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is work an attractive alternative to unemployment benefits? The unemployed receive about $400 a week. That turns out to be about $10 an hour for the normal 40-hour workweek. Because the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, unemployment pays better.

In addition to unemployment benefits, supplementary benefits are possible. In Maryland, for example, $8 a day is available for every dependent child. One also can become eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called the Food Stamp Program. The average eligible family receives about $225 a month.

Because the unemployed have no earned income, they are eligible for free care at federally funded community health care centers in virtually every congressional district. And should they require hospital care, hospitals accepting federal payments or assistance - virtually all - are obliged to accept them as charity patients. Other benefits may accrue, such as training grants, rental assistance, day care and school lunches.

These benefits amount to more than $25,000 a year, largely tax-free. Two earners in a family would make $50,000 a year. Leisure, a byproduct of not working, may well make unemployment a tolerable, even attractive, option for 26 to 52 weeks of the year.

What is needed is an aggressive push away from benefits and toward work. I suggest that for every month of benefits received, the Social Security retirement age be raised as well. Not only would that cause recipients to think more about going back to work, but it would help reduce the unfunded liability of the Social Security system.


Federal senior executive and Foreign Service officer (retired)

Bethesda, Md.

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