“Dignity for the Unemployed Act” to require volunteer service for unemployment eligibility

Senators Albers, Rogers, Gooch, Shafer, Carter and Miller have pre-filed Senate Bill 294, called the “Dignity for the Unemployed Act,” which would require as a condition of eligibility for unemployment that an applicant:

(7) The individual has performed at least 24 hours of volunteer service per week for a nonprofit charitable organization which is qualified as exempt from taxation under the provisions of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. Such organization and service shall be in accordance with any regulations prescribed by the Commissioner. This paragraph shall not apply to the first two weeks of eligibility. The Commissioner may, by regulation, waive or alter the requirements of this paragraph for cases or situations in which the Commissioner finds that compliance with the requirements would be oppressive or inconsistent with the purposes of this chapter. [Emphasis added]

What are the pros and cons of this approach?


  1. ted in bed says:

    And the difference between being required to work somewhere against your free will and slavery is?

    Seriously, I don’t get this. What are the “conscripts” going to do? What does it accomplish other than to make the managers of 501-c-3 richer on the backs of free labor.

    • Doug Grammer says:

      They aren’t required to work at all. However, if they want to go two years without a job and still get money from the rest of us, I’d add in a drug screening.

      • Rick Day says:

        I’d add in a drug screening.

        Why? Do you own stock in drug screening companies? Are the unemployed not allowed to self-medicate? Because you are afraid your payroll deduction is going to go to giving a grandma a toot of weed?

        Because that approach failed in Florida. It cost more than it saved.

  2. ricstewart says:

    I think this is a good idea, but I think 24 hours per week is excessive. Many nonprofits (particularly small, rural ones) are not able to absorb a flood of new volunteers. Nonprofits do need volunteers, but trying to train and manage a huge influx of new volunteers could distract agencies from their mission and be counterproductive. If the supply of volunteers increases more quickly than the demand for services and the amount of physical resources, nonprofits may end up as glorified babysitters for unemployed volunteers who have nothing to do except twiddle their thumbs.

    Other than that, I think this is an excellent concept if it’s 8-12 hours/week. In my estimation, this legislation would help prepare unemployed volunteers for full-time work and would be a much better way to pare down unemployment rolls (or any public assistance) than ridiculous drug testing requirements that would just fight big government with more big government.

    • Doug Grammer says:

      I am in favor of putting controls on them when receiving public assistance. They can be unemployed with no assistance and no controls all they like. If they take the money, they take the strings attached.

      • GAPolitico says:

        Isn’t that exactly what State Republicans hate about taking money from the Federal Government – the string attached. Then you all turn around and put strings on government assistance. Let’s be honest, you guys only hate the strings when they are inconvenient for you.

        • Doug Grammer says:

          If it’s out collective money, then part of it is mine as well. I vote. Therefore, if I decide to speak out publicly on how it’s spent, I have that right.

          State Government getting strings attached is different than individuals getting strings attached.

          Do you tell everyone who disagrees with you to chill out?

  3. kyleinatl says:

    I worked at a very large non-profit for years, and while we valued every volunteer we had…it’s not like you could just pull extra busy work out of thin air for every person that walked in off the street. Most volunteering at non-profits tends to be event based (Walk for a Cure type stuff) rather than office-based day in/day out work, and it’s not like you replace your key staff with unpaid labor that is likely temporary.

    While I appreciate the notion, I just don’t see how anyone will really benefit. Perhaps the local soup kitchen or conservation organization could use the hand…

  4. Cloverhurst says:

    Here comes Albers again-

    First his drug testing bill: if we are going to drug test TANF recipients we should do the same thing for HOPE scholars. At the same time generally people on TANF have problems, the hope is that this cash assistance filters down to the care of a child- take it away what happens.

    Also- what will keep the recipients from moving their habit from drugs to booze.

    Now with his volunteerism bill- there are a whole lot of people unemployed in his district- not because they are lazy or unskilled, forcing them to volunteer is wrong, we as Republicans need to drop this elitist attitude.

    • Doug Grammer says:

      Taking the money and spending on a lawful product such as booze is allowed. Spending it on drugs is not. I am fine with hope scholarship recipients being tested. Most companies will do so after they graduate.

      I’m not 100% on board with the 501 C-3 idea.

      • GAPolitico says:

        What about drug testing the CEO’s of Delta – since they are getting huge tax subsidies for the State. If we are going to drug test and force community service on those getting $300 a week, how about the ones that are getting millions each year?

        • Doug Grammer says:

          Booze can be addictive. When I say “drug” I mean the illegal kind; not an over the counter pharmaceutical either.

  5. QuinnJ says:

    Where is Albers going to be volunteering? I’d assume if it weren’t for his small Senate salary + per diem he might be collecting one of these checks.

    The folks at Ron Blue & Co. dropped him as CIO earlier this Fall because he could not figure out how to remove his Senate badge from his shirt, he doesn’t leave his bedroom without it on (quite a complex he has).

  6. Harry says:

    Last I checked, there is lots of trash to be picked up and grass to be cut. Charitable organizations need help. Neighborhoods and parks need help with security.

    • kyleinatl says:

      While your point is well taken, that’s not where people will be headed intially I guarantee you. I imagine I’ll be disappointing alot of people looking for easy volunteer work, provided this passes.

  7. taylor says:

    Here’s a con — the cost to taxpayers for the Department of Labor to process paperwork documenting that the volunteering occurred. Will the department need to ensure that the volunteer organization has IRS non-profit status, develop a pre-approved list of organizations, ensure that the weekly “timesheet” has been signed by an appropriate organization official?

    This proposal is unlikely to help any charitable organization. And it would most definitely come with an increase in state taxpayer dollars.

  8. Dave Bearse says:

    Quite apt legislation a day or two after Charlie’s post about sexual predator legislation.

    Is Albers proposing to up employment checks to cover transportation expenses? I kinda doubt there’s Section 501(c)(3) organization that could competently fulfill monitor someone picking up roadside trash on their own in Taliaferro County, population 1,700, 12.2% unemployment. Oh right, like the original voter ID bill where IDs weren’t free or even available in dozens of counties, anyone that doesn’t have a car and have gas in the tank is a shiftless no-account.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      And then there’s childcare to consider—an exemption and the bureaucrcy that goes with that I suppose. Yeah, it’s simply another great idea from the party that’s for family values, smaller government, and less regulation, except when it’s not.

      Another con?

      10+% unemployment that could well swing a few percentage points worth of voters come election time. Unemployment knows no party (unless one is well-connected with majority party insider and can always fall back on a patronage job), despite what some may think..

  9. Gary Cooper says:

    Here’s a con. When I was unemployed earlier this year, the unemployment assistance wasn’t much to live off on, much less pay my bills. I had to use my time and what little money I had wisely, that means putting my money towards the necessities of life such as food, shelter, etc and then having enough money to actually get out and attend job interviews, job fairs, the like. 24 hours a week is pretty hard to put in when you spend 6-8 hours a day just looking for work and then you have priorities with the family (picking up kids from school, helping the working wife around the house, and getting the kids ready for the next day) you don’t have much time to do the community service unless you spend all day Saturday and Sunday. That is just my take on it and that is from experience.

    Now I can understand if they wanted to do this for those who were receiving extended unemployment benefits after the 26 weeks. However, those first 26 weeks are benefits that your employer (and in some cases you the employee) paid into for unemployment insurance. The employee earned this benefit/fallback in the case they became unemployed through no fault of their own. Trust me they (like myself) would rather be employed and making a living salary and not $330 a week. Given the fact that most who lose their jobs unexpectedly (like myself) want to do nothing but put their time into getting back to work, this would be a bad idea. Do it for extended benefits but cut back the hours to 10 or less a week. Do it for those who actually live off the government dole and not those who rather be working but can’t because these same politicians created an environment unfriendly for businesses to hire.

      • Todd Rehm says:

        I’ve got nothing against unemployment recipients. Gary makes a good point that unemployment is funded by employers and employees.

        I also have several concerns, including that this might be a burden on some charities, there would be substantial cost to the state to monitor this, and unemployed people in the first 26 weeks really should be busting their tails to find new jobs.

        • Harry says:

          I agree with you. This legislation should be directed toward post-26 week, taxpayer-supported extended benefits. I’m sure that’s the only way it will pass.

          I think the whole idea of unemployment benefits no longer works very well, but my alternative idea – government pays everyone who wants to work a below-minimum subsistence wage to do menial tasks – probably won’t fly either in this heterogeneous society.

      • Doug Grammer says:

        I’ve got nothing against unemployment recipients either. My issue is that I don’t want money from public assistance to go illegal activity. The vast majority who receive public assistance won’t be bothered too much by less than 1 hour every month or so for a drug screening.

        • Calypso says:

          But Doug, you seem to fail to grasp an important point. It is not, as you state, ‘public assisstance’. It is the payout of an insurance policy which the employer/employee paid premiums on for years. We’re talking about unemployment INSURANCE here, not ‘welfare’ payments.

          As I mentioned under another posting, would you want your auto insurance company to tell you that you had to do volunteer charity work before they paid to fix your dented fender?

          • Doug Grammer says:

            I understand that you are talking about unemployment insurance. However, I’m not talking about JUST unemployment insurance. There is a difference.

            To answer your question, no, I wouldn’t. My question is: Do you think those receiving public assistance should get it without question or controls?

            • Calypso says:

              To answer your question more precisely, I need to know your definition of ‘public assistance’.

              My understanding is Albers’ bill deals solely with unemployment insurance. That is the issue I’m addressing here, and I think there is no need to put additional conditions on the current unemployment insurance arrangement.

              Welfare payments are another issue entirely and I believe you are intentionally trying to muddy the waters about Albers’ unemployment insurance bill by bringing in a topic which is more ‘hot-button’ in nature.

              • Doug Grammer says:


                I UNDERSTAND you have been talking about unemployment insurance. I saw the topics and it made me thing of something closely related but not quite the same, public assistance. Go back and look at all of my previous posts. I am not” muddying the waters.” You are having a hard time understanding that I was never talking about the exact same thing as you. That’s not my fault if there is a lack of understanding on your part. I am on the same subject I have been on. I have not changed gears to try to fool anyone.

                My definition of “public assistance” means additional income to an individual that is derived from tax money. That could be welfare, food stamps, public housing but still short of tax refunds.

  10. saltycracker says:

    It is bad legislation to financially benefit a disassociated party, regardless of their tax status.

    Georgia has gone from a surplus to a 3/4 billion dollar loan from the Feds on this program. This does nothing to abate the problem. Replacing public workers for these checks might.

  11. Three Jack says:

    what is this solving? seems to me if this passed it would actually create problems where there are none currently.

    do our legislators really have nothing else to worry about other than attacking mexicans and the unemployed? did i miss something where georgia all of a sudden became a top ranked state in education, job creation and crime deterrence? it really is time to boot them all and start over if this is the kind of crap legislation these so-called conservatives are going to keep putting forth. maybe the drug testing should start right after the annual wild hog dinner with every one of these politicians pissing in a cup.

  12. drjay says:

    at the risk of being called a rino–i think this is a pretty dumb idea–i suppose the drug thing might make some sense–a lot of jobs require pre-employment drug screens, so if you are smoking weed while unemployed you are probably hindering your chances for employment. but mandatory volunteering is something i generally have a problem with in any situation–i don’t like public schools using it as a graduation requirement either–for instance…

  13. Nathan says:

    vol·un·teer   [vol-uhn-teer]
    1. a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking.
    2. a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.

    I’m not sure how you could construe it as being a voluntary service when a.) you’re making it compulsory by law and b.) you’re ultimately receiving benefits/payment from the state. I’m not going to discount the idea, but I believe it should be reworded to remove “volunteer” from the legislation. Will the Labor Department make a recommendation or rules on how that 24 hrs/week will be divided? (i.e., three 8 hour days, six 4 hour days, two 12 hour days?).

    I don’t see how the argument can be made on how this bill is supposed to be “hateful” towards the unemployed. I believe there are good intentions to make sure that the unemployed are at least doing something to either find a job or doing something constructive. Oh yeah, our society doesn’t like hard work any more, so I guess it is “hateful” to encourage folks to work.

    I believe it could use some tweaking, but I’m interested to see where this bill goes.

  14. griftdrift says:

    ” I believe there are good intentions to make sure that the unemployed are at least doing something to either find a job or doing something constructive”

    That’s already in place

  15. John Konop says:

    I saw this on a blog today. He makes a very good point!

    ………………Imagine this. You’re standing before a judge and you‘re guilty of your crime. It is time for you to receive your punishment which is to check in with your probation officer and do 25 hours of community service each week. Most would think the crime fits the punishment except the crime was your job was outsourced to India or China and you were let go by your employer. State Senate bill, SB 294 does just that. The Sponsors of this bill is Albers of the 56th, Rogers of the 21st, Gooch of the 51st, Shafer of the 48th, Carter of the 1st.

    Apparently to State Republicans the solution to lack of jobs is criminalizing unemployment. Last year it they wanted to require drug testing for you to receive unemployment insurance benefits now they want reinstitute forced labor rather than you actually looking for a job. If you refuse to agree to this form of modern slavery your unemployment insurance that you paid for will be denied. You in fact paid the premium for this insurance. Your employer considers s unemployment insurance premiums part of you total compensation. That does means you actually paid for it.

    I supposed that doing things like promising to repay a loan to a bank when you knew you didn’t have the money to make the first payment is not considered a crime of fraud but losing your job and needing a benefit you paid to have is considered a crime by the State Senate Republicans…………..

  16. Three Jack says:

    i wonder if these ‘fiscal conservative’ senators took a moment to explore cost for either the forced labor program or drug testing…doubt it since the ga gop motto is, ‘ready, fire, aim’.

    491,410 unemployed in georgia (10/11)
    $42 avg. cost of drug test (not counting the re-test which would be a requirement and any subsequent legal costs for appeals, test challenges, etc.)
    $20,639,220 to drug test current unemployment beneficiaries

    maybe they can divert the money from education since the billions we spend accomplish little to nothing based on georgia’s history of failed education results.

      • benevolus says:

        OK, $10,000,000. Or whatever it is, it is an unfunded mandate unless he includes a fiscal note and what else in the budget gets cut to pay for this paranoid delusion?

        • ricstewart says:

          The fiscal note for SB 294 should be coming in right after the fiscal note for HB 87. Any day now, right, Buzz? Buzz?

      • Three Jack says:

        harry, $42 is probably low…bidding will not decrease the cost. but maybe you and the holier-than-thou senators can save money by purchasing a bunch of broom handles and just beat the tar out of anybody who dares to be unemployed in this vibrant, opportunity filled market.

    • Calypso says:

      You’ve hit upon something there, Three Jack. Maybe Albers, et. al, can drop a bill to drug test all the kids before the start of each school year. They wouldn’t want the state to be spending money to put any of the little druggies in classrooms paid for with tax dollars, would they?

  17. KD_fiscal conservative says:

    I like the general idea of getting people off gov’t support, BUT Is there any evidence this thing will save money….no of-course not, it it constitutional, who cares,… at-least we’re pissing of the people on public assistance, right guys???

    This bill shows to useless nature so many Georgia GOP’ers. They don’t care about fiscal conservatism or spending less money, just pandering the hard-core simpletons like Grammer who aren’t guided by any real principles…just the desire to stick it to usual boogy-men(in this case the ‘welfare-queens’) without thoughtful analysis of intended and/or unintended consequences of the bill.

    • Doug Grammer says:


      I think it’s kind of funny you that are calling me names, but you don’t have the guts to use your own name.

      Is it constitutional to require drug screening to provide for the general welfare? Sure it is. Disagree? Show me case law that backs up your opinion. Be a grown up. Don’t call names. That’s silly and doesn’t make you any more right or wrong than before. Prove your point.

      Fiscal conservatism makes sure money is spent wisely. Allowing public money to be spent on non-essential living items such as illegal drugs is wasteful. Question my principals all you like. At least people know who I am, and I’m fairly consistent in my opinions.

      To end, you kind of dumb for thinking I back this particular bill.

        • Doug Grammer says:

          Filed 10/24/11? You couldn’t find anything more current?

          “On stipulation of the State that it will not seek to enforce the statute against others similarly situated to Plaintiff until the matter is fully resolved, the Court DENIES the Plaintiff’s Motion for Class Certification (Dkt. 16) without prejudice.”

          Sounds like it’s a work in progress…we will see what the SCOTUS has to say about that.

              • griftdrift says:

                Because the law was just passed. So we have to wait 5-6 years for the Supreme Court to ultimately decide? If they even decide to take the case? That doesn’t seem to be a very efficient use of government.

              • ricstewart says:

                Exactly. Which is why Georgia legislators should look before they leap… exactly like they didn’t with HB 87.
                Wait until we see how Florida’s drug testing law works out: success rates, costs, and how the courts rule. When will we start to learn from other states’ mistakes instead of making them ourselves?

      • benevolus says:

        Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. Companies know this. Diminishing returns. In PRINCIPLE something here could be wasteful, but almost every large system has a certain amount of waste inherent in it. It’s a messy world. Pursuing all waste at any expense is kinda like jousting with windmills.

  18. Three Jack says:

    joe the unemployed salesman’s day:
    5am – wakeup to help feed the kid(s)
    6am – shower (if water still on), get ready to chase a job
    7am – say goodbye to his wife as she heads off to her job, drop baby at her mom’s then attend job seeker networking breakfast ($10)
    9am – 2pm: attend state required charity work (everyday) reducing by 60% amount of available time to find gainful employment.
    2pm – piss test, attend required d.o.l. class, interviews if invited
    4pm – pickup kid, buy groceries, warm up leftovers
    7pm – internet job hunt (if power still on)

    joe the unemployed salesman’s day (perceived by some gop senators):
    5am – tell ol’ lady to take care of the kid, go back to sleeping off hangover.
    10am – fart, rollover and fire up the bong…wake and bake!, turn on regis.
    noon – call domino’s, take nap after lunch
    3pm – party time, hooked up with a bunch of other unemployeds while waiting in line to signup for extended benefits…bong hits for everybody!!
    4pm – check mail, $330 unemployment check…party time….dinner at capital grille!
    yea, right.

    any of the senators sponsoring either bill (drug testing, required labor), explain how you are providing ‘dignity for the unemployed’. pissing in a cup while being forced to spend 5 hours a day working for a ‘non-profit’ charity group is not any more dignified than being laid off and swallowing one’s pride to apply for unemployment in the first place. sure some folks take advantage of the programs, but most in this era of 10%+ unemployment are suffering through their first ever experience without a job. this is humiliation enough without pandering, pompous pols piling on.

    if you want to provide ‘dignity for the unemployed’, reform georgia’s tax system, eliminate nimby property rights restrictions and improve the education system. offer incentives for unemployed folks who come up with new business ideas. this will encourage job growth which beats the hell out of kicking a man when he is already down.

  19. atticuspatton says:

    So, who has asked the non-profits…sure they would love the extra hands, but those who are involved with Federal grants/mandates or State grants have specific requirements of background checks, etc. So I see this as a huge train wreck waiting to happen…How is it implemented, another red tape issue for non-profits to implement? I am very familiar with the non-profit industry and this is not the right way to do things, YOU CANNOT ENFORCE A CHARITABLE HEART.

  20. ricstewart says:

    atticuspatton makes an excellent point.
    Legislators should listen to leaders from the nonprofit industry before moving forward with this bill. As I posted earlier, if the supply of volunteers increases more quickly than the demand for services and the amount of physical resources, the volunteers will be spinning their wheels for 24 hours each week.

    Jenkins County, for example, has 18.6% unemployment in the month of October. According to the IRS, the city of Millen (the only city in Jenkins County) only has eight charities. I don’t think that those eight charities will be able to find volunteer work for more than 2,000 unemployed people.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Yeah, but at least the parking lots at the Jenkins County charitiable will be swept spic and psan before the unemployement twiddle their thumbs for the remaining 23 hours each week.

  21. sunkawakan says:

    This one was put out in (at least) Florida in February of this year. It’s straight out of the ALEC playbook.

    It’s also likely outside of federal guidelines for unemployment “requirements,” so it doesn’t have much chance.

    • Three Jack says:

      when did ga republicans start caring about ‘federal guidelines’? they’ll lawyer up just like they did to defend hb87.

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