On April 21, I lost my job. It happened without warning. One day, I’d been making plans for the activities I was going to enjoy with my son during the summer, and the next, I no longer had a paycheck.
No problem, I thought. I’d just sign up for unemployment until I could find something new. I completed the unemployment process on April 23, and then I waited. And waited. And waited some more.
After six weeks, I finally contacted the unemployment office.
“Your paperwork is all set, just continue filing your weekly claims,” they said. “You’ve been scheduled for a hearing on July 19th.” I repeated the date to make sure I heard it correctly. It would be nearly three months before they even considered my application, and then up to three weeks before a decision was made.
I haven’t received a single unemployment payment, so during my job search I blew through my meager savings and resorted to borrowing money from family. This is supposed to be what unemployment insurance is for, to provide help in the case of sudden unemployment. I understand that there’s been a lot of sudden unemployment as a result of the pandemic. What I don’t understand is why the state has responded so poorly to the need.
My experience is not unique at all. Friends with children have shared stories about how they’re still waiting on their tax returns. Stimulus payments have vanished into thin air. Small business owners who had their businesses shuttered during the pandemic have similarly been unable to receive PPE loans or unemployment assistance. Let’s put aside the perennial argument about the role of government for now. The government said it would do these things. In many cases, it hasn’t.
So it frustrates me when I recall that Gov. Ned Lamont fought tooth and nail against any tax increases on the wealthiest residents of the state. You know, the way that the government funds itself and provides the services, which justifies its existence. That money could perhaps be used to improve the speed and efficiency of the government services people need to rely on during this ongoing emergency – lest we forget, while the situation has dramatically improved, COVID-19 cases are increasing in the state.
But no dice. Meanwhile, Connecticut’s 14 billionaires added over $12 billion to their coffers during the pandemic.
The refusal to raise taxes isn’t even a uniform position. While the governor declines to increase taxes on billionaires, newly legal marijuana will be taxed at a whopping 20% rate. This is in line with Connecticut’s general “sin tax” approach to raising revenue. Whether it’s the doubling of cigarette taxes in the early 2000’s, the recent plastic-bag tax, or the ever-growing reliance on the secretly regressive taxation policy of Keno and other novel gambling schemes, it’s clear that the state requires more money despite the governor’s claims to the contrary. Yet the impact of these taxes will fall upon those with lower incomes moreso than billionaires.
And what do billionaires do with all the money they’re not getting taxed on?
Jeff Bezos has shown us this week, with his journey into space. If we’re still waiting for the “trickle-down” from their success, then we’re going to end up waiting even longer than I have for unemployment.
Jamil Ragland writes and lives in East Hartford. You can read more of his writing at www.nutmeggerdaily.com.
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