Woopra

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Asbury Park Press writes about the Seasonal Employee-Unemployment Benefits Issue

If you've been reading this blog a while, then you know that the Mayor and City Manager of Cape May, and Mayor of Cape May Point, believe that seasonal employees -- like lifeguards -- are taking advantage of unemployment benefits in the off-season.  They have spoken out in favor of eliminating this meager benefit to save a few dollars -- according to the Cape May City Mayor, seasonal employees know that the seasonal job is temporary and thus do not deserve benefits after the job ends (like unemployment benefits).

The Asbury Park Press has written an excellent story regarding this controversy that you can read here. According to the story, the Mayor of Belmar, Bruce Doherty, thinks that the few seasonal employees who collect unemployment are not a problem.  He doesn't explicitly come out against the Cape May Mayor and City Manager's plan, but he does make it clear that he doesn't think the idea makes a lick of sense.  From the story:

Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said the borough does not have a problem with seasonal employees collecting unemployment.
“I don’t believe that our town has an issue with it at this time,’’ Doherty said. “Most of our season employees are college or high school students, retirees, and school teachers who are not eligible (to collect).”
Belmar, by the way, plays $112,000 to the State towards those seasonal workers unemployment benefits (according to the story).

Personally,  I find it exceedingly odd that the City of Cape May would try to stick it to people who are doing the town a great service during the summer tourist season.   I particularly find it strange that the town would try to stick it to the lifeguards, who are a credit to Cape May and have been so for over a century.  To save a few bucks on their backs is ridiculous, when there are certainly more obvious places to go for more cost savings -- for example, the City Manager's pension, for starters.  Moreover, the Asbury Park Press article points out that seasonal workers do not receive health benefits, which can become very expensive.  The tradeoff is a financially fair one for the municipalities, if the import of the article is correct.

Remarkably, Exit Zero Magazine has editorialized in favor of the City's position on this. If you click this link and turn to page 13 of the December 29th, 2011, edition, the journalists at Exit Zero suggest that some Cape May seasonal workers -- the article doesn't say who -- take advantage of unemployment benefits and go "hang[] ten in Costa Rica" with their unemployment benefits during the off-season.  The Exit Zero editors do not name names, and do not do appear to do any investigative journalism so as to substantiate their claim that lifeguards or other seasonal employees take advantage of the system by vacationing in the Caribbean -- instead, the Exit Zero journalists simply say "you know it happens." Exit Zero tries to say it sees "both sides" of the issue, but the tone and emphasis of the comments establish that EZ sides with the Cape May and Cape May Point Mayors and Cape May City Manager on this issue.

(Not to get off track, but this Exit Zero editorial is not exactly a high point in its short history. Kicking at seasonal workers during the winter -- a few days after Christmas -- is worthy of Ebeneezer Scrooge and City Manager McLeod perhaps, but unexpected when coming from journalists who say they're "a liberal-leaning bunch" who knows how much "the city depends on its seasonal workers." Perhaps someone could have interviewed a seasonal worker or two who receives these benefits to find out whether the money goes to surfing in Costa Rica or goes to helping a family get by in the winter.  The good people of Exit Zero -- and they are good people -- lost their focus when it comes to this point.)

I know firsthand the difficulties of the economy. I am a small-business owner myself and expect my tax contributions to be used wisely. But if my tax dollars were helping someone who works for Cape May scrape by in the off-season, I like to think I'd consider that a reasonable use of tax dollars.

If there are truly seasonal workers using this benefit to go surf in the Caribbean, I hope someone will speak up as to exactly who is doing that. Otherwise, for now I'll side with the Mayor of Belmar, and wonder what exactly is going on down in Cape May.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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