Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, has introduced a bill that would require people laid off from work to perform community service in order to get unemployment benefits.
Senate Bill 6392 specifically requires workers to perform “at least eight hours of community service for every four weeks of unemployment benefits received.”
Workers younger than 18 and older than 65 would be exempt, as would people with a “justifiable cause for failure to perform community service.”
Baumgartner said the requirement is not intended as a punitive measure, arguing “it’s going to help these people find jobs” by getting them out in the community to network and learn marketable skills.
The bill doesn’t say what kind of community service workers should do in order to get benefits, but Baumgartner said it could include helping out at soup kitchens, wiping down graffiti and environmental cleanup.
Baumgartner, vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said he expects the bill to at least get a hearing in the GOP-led Senate. “That’s the great thing about being in the majority,” he said.
Democratic Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, criticized the legislation.
“Our friends and neighbors seeking jobs are already struggling to pay the bills and feed their kids in addition to looking for work. Community service is an honorable pursuit, but forcing someone into it simply to maintain their family’s lifeline is downright cold,” she said in a statement.