By the end of the month, more than 30,000 people who are collecting Connecticut unemployment benefits will have their weekly checks cut by 19.2 percent.
Only people who have been collecting more than 26 weeks will face the cuts, because weeks 27 through 63 are paid by the federal government, not the state fund paid for by taxes on employers. The cuts are a consequence of sequestration, a system of across-the-board federal spending cuts that earlier affected civilian workers for the Department of Defense, air traffic controllers and much more.
For the average recipient, the check will fall from $330 to about $265 a week. For those receiving the maximum benefit, the check will fall from $591 to $478 a week.
For the approximately 50,000 people in Connecticut who have been out of work less than six months, and who are receiving benefits, their checks will remain the same until they hit the 27th week.
Some states implemented the cuts at the end of March, and for them, the cuts were 10.7 percent. The longer it took the state to change its funding levels, the steeper the cut, because the same amount of dollars had to be reduced by September 30th.
“We did it as fast as we could,” said Nancy Steffens, spokeswoman for the state Department of Labor. “It took that time to make the very complex computer changes.”
One of the complexities — the reductions don’t apply to back benefits, even if they’re paid out after the reductions begin.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy held a press conference Wednesday to draw attention to the plight of the unemployed who will receive fewer benefits. According to a Pew Charitable Trusts study on the impact of sequestration on state unemployment systems, Alaska has the highest proportion of its labor force collecting benefits past six months, and New Jersey and Connecticut were tied for No. 2.
Because the unemployed tend to spend every dollar that comes in, the reductions will be felt in the state economy, Malloy said.
“This is heartbreaking news for unemployed residents who are struggling to find a new job during the recovery, and rely on weekly benefit payments to purchase food, pay the rent, or keep the lights on,” said State Labor Commissioner Sharon M. Palmer.
In addition to the smaller checks, sequestration will cut $1.6 million in money for community college tuition or short-term courses for displaced workers, and nearly a half-million in salaries and benefits for workers at the CTWorks centers around the state.
Steffens said some of the CTWorks jobs are state jobs, and some are nonprofit jobs, and there will be reductions through attrition.
There will also be $150,000 cut from the workplace safety inspection division.