IMPACT
12/12/2011 09:27 am ET | Updated Dec 12, 2011

Dignity for the Unemployed Act Requires Jobless To Volunteer For Benefits

After 51 consecutive months of surpassing the national unemployment rate, Georgia is considering putting its jobless to work, for free.

Senator John Albers recently introduced the Dignity for the Unemployed Act, a measure that would require the jobless to volunteer 24 hours per week in order to earn their benefits, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. Albers says that mandating the unemployed to give back could play a key role in bringing down the unemployment rate, which hit 10.2 percent in October, but opposers fear that it will detract from their job hunt.

"When folks lose their job, it can be very depressing and defeating," Albers told CNN.
"Getting motivated...serving folks, getting new stuff on your resume [are] only positives. When you're helping our citizens serve other people and serve charities, only good can come of it."

According to the AJC, the unemployed would start volunteering two weeks after becoming eligible for benefits and that the Labor Department could exempt those facing "cases of hardship."

Some recent findings support Albers' theory that service could bring down unemployment numbers.

A report released by the National Conference on Citizenship in September concluded that states with high rates of volunteering, did not see as big a rise in unemployment from 2006 to 2010 compared with states with lower rates.

"There is growing evidence of a connection between social capital and economic resilience," Michael Weiser, NCoC Chairman, said in a press release, "and we believe our analysis presents strong correlations for how the civic health of a community can help a community weather tough economic times."

But, for some of those who are out of work -- and are actively seeking employment opportunities -- this act is seen as a hindrance to finding a paying job.

Joyce Wilson, who has been unemployed since February, told CBS Atlanta that she doesn't see any merit to Albers' act.

"For one, I do charity work," Wilson told the news outlet. "I don't need anyone to tell me to do it and if they are going to make it mandatory, they need to give me a little something for my gas. They are taking away from my time looking for a job."

Albers, however, says it's critical to bring a fresh approach to resolving the unemployment issue.

"We have to challenge the status quo," Albers told CNN. "We have to do things differently. We have to do them better."

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