Council for jobless gathers signatures for longer benefits

January 18, 1991|By Michael K. Burns

Because of an editing change, an article in yesterday's Maryland section incorrectly suggested that the state unemployment rate was high enough to authorize extended weeks of jobless benefits to claimants.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Taking its campaign into state unemploymrnt offices, a new organization began signing up jobless Marylanders yesterday on petitions demanding that unemployment benefits be extended beyond the current limit of 26 weeks.

The newly formed Baltimore Unemployed Council got permission from the state to hand out leaflets and solicit signatures from benefit claimants at Baltimore-area unemployment offices.


Members of the council, which is sponsored by the Electrical Workers union, had been ousted from several claims offices earlier in the week.

But they got approval for their lobbying after presenting the Office of Unemployment Insurance with a 1978 federal court agreement that granted similar rights to another organization representing the jobless.

"The people really jumped on filling out those petitions -- we filled eight pages in less than a half-hour," said council member Robert Simpson. "Everybody we talked to seemed to support the idea."

"Without an extension of benefits, either from Congress or the state legislature, more and more jobless people will really end up homeless," added Ethel Carter, a founder of the group, who lost her packer's job at Alford Industries Inc. three months ago.

During the 1983 recession, the benefit period in Maryland was extended to 47 weeks, and in 1975 it was stretched to 65 weeks, with additional state-authorized funding, noted Peter French, an organizer with the Electrical Workers union.

The Baltimore Unemployed Council will campaign in the Eutaw Street, Eastpoint and Glen Burnie claims offices, according to Curtis Kane, a spokesman for the state agency.

He explained that federal law set the limits and conditions for extending unemployment benefits. (States set their weekly benefits; Maryland's maximum is $215.)

For the state to add weeks of unemployment benefits, the number of recipients during a 13-week period must be at least 20 percent above that state's rate for the same quarter in each of the preceding two years. The unemployment rate must also top 5 percent.

In November, Maryland's unemployment rate was 5.3 percent, compared with 3.7 percent a year earlier.

In the week ended Dec. 22, unemployment benefits were certified for 54,608 Marylanders. Later figures were not yet available.

But some 100,000 persons in Maryland exhausted their jobless benefits last year without finding a new job, the Baltimore Unemployed Council noted.

The council is holding an organizing meeting at 1 p.m. tomorrow at 3554 S. Hanover St.

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