New unemployment rules give people hope

May 8, 2009 7:29:54 PM PDT
Analysts say unemployment numbers released Friday are a glimmer of hope. The economy is still shedding jobs, but not as fast as it has been. And starting Friday, there is a fundamental shift in unemployment benefits.

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At the employment development office in Oakland Friday, Lynette Cravens wrapped up her class on how to find a job.

Eric Nogues' entire online art shop closed its doors after a dismal Christmas season.

"When we had to lay everybody off there were tears running down everybody's cheeks," Nogues said.

Nogues was a production manager; lots of the people in the class had good jobs. Federal agents, marketing managers, administrative assistants are all back at square one.

Sandi McEachron wants to go back to school to learn computer graphics; her dream job would be working for Pixar. But she could not because California denies unemployment to anyone going back to school full time.

"Because they expect you to be working spending that time looking for a job," McEachron said.

That is until Friday, when President Barack Obama changed the rules.

"The idea here is to fundamentally change our approach to unemployment in this country so it is no long time just to look for a new job, but it's also time to prepare yourself for a better job," Obama said.

The president is asking states to allow people to keep their unemployment benefits if they enroll in community college or other job training programs.

"This gives me an opportunity to do what I would really like to do and what really fires me up, turns me on and I have a passion for and that I would really, really like to do," McEachron said.

The president said unemployment benefits should no longer be just a safety net, but a stepping stone to a new future.

Nogues says even if the rule change just gets you off the couch and out of the house, it will be positive.

"Gets you going, gives you a sense of purpose, you have a goal; if you have a goal at the end, it keeps you going to reach that goal," Nogues said.

Along with extending benefits for people going to community colleges, the Department of Education is increasing Pell grants to help out of work students pay for college. The idea is, people with higher education have lower unemployment rates.

Related Link:
Opportunity.gov

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