Unemployment compensation is money paid to people who have lost a job through no fault of their own. It is temporary income meant to help make ends meet while people look for work. Persons’ eligible for unemployment compensation receive benefits biweekly for a limited number of weeks. Typically, the individual will be paid about half of what the original full-time income was before becoming unemployed. The individual must be able and ready to return to work, either to their old job or a new job to claim unemployment benefits. For claims with an effective date of January 1, 2012 or later, the individual have to actively seek work during each week the individual claim unemployment compensation benefits.
Seasonal workers are defined as a worker who finds work only in certain seasons. A seasonal job is a short-term position designed to fill a temporary need, usually related to the time of the year. The basic premise of a seasonal job is that employers hire seasonal staff to fill a particular need that is not expected to last more than a few weeks or months. The timeline is usually set out at the beginning so that employees are not surprised when the work ends. Until recently most states allowed seasonal employees to collect unemployment benefits during the months when they were unemployed. For example, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, janitors, and many other school employees know they will be unemployed during the summer months. Other examples of seasonal workers include construction, hospitality, and tourists industries. Cities and communities often contract out for work like snow plowing, lawn watering, and beach lifeguarding on a seasonal basis, as these are jobs that, in most places, can only be done during certain times of the year. People who take these jobs frequently have other sources of employment, and often pick up tasks on a part-time or as needed basis.
Federal law prohibits professional athletes from collecting unemployment benefits between seasons, and teachers from collecting unemployment benefits during the summer. Is it fair to cut unemployment for seasonal workers? Unemployment benefits are more or less a safety net; it exists to help people through tough times when they lose their jobs. Taxpayers concerns that seasonal workers who receive unemployment benefits will increase a debt burden onto them. However, individuals don’t pay unemployment insurance taxes, employers and the federal government pays into the unemployment system, and the states handle the distributions. The other factor at play into the concerns is that many of seasonal workers aren’t unemployed in the traditional sense, some are simply on hiatus. Many of these workers have jobs they will be returning to in a few months, and don’t have any incentive to find work while they are receiving unemployment benefits. This make is easy for many people to use unemployment compensation benefits as an income supplement subsidized by the federal government.
There are currently 15 states that limit unemployment benefits to seasonal workers, and several more states have legislation in work to limit benefits. If unemployment benefits are cut for seasonal workers, people may lose their homes, cars, and may not be able to provide for their families. In Massachusetts, Colorado, and Pennsylvania seasonal workers can no longer apply for benefits unless they’re laid off during their working season. For example, a ski instructor can only collect unemployment if the individual lost their job in the winter season.