In The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars, I write about Jonathan Baird, also known as my brother in law, and his efforts as a legal aid attorney. In New Hampshire, he's been working hard to make some changes in the law so that parents who worked part time and end up on unemployement, and who can't easily apply for fulltime work because they have kids and childcare issues, can still get unemployment. In the past, part time workers weren't eligible for unemployment benefits. In order to get them, you had to be willing and able to accept fulltime work if offered. This made life even worse for part time workers, especially those with very low incomes. First they lose their job. Then, they can't even get unemployment.
Well thanks to Jonathan Baird and his team of Legal Aid attorneys, in New Hampshire, all that has changed now. A new law has passed the State House and Senate, and will be signed by the governor. One thing that Jon taught me when we talked about these issues is just how much effort it takes to change just one little piece of the law, in just one little state of the union.
After nine years of efforts and quite a few defeats, UI advocates in NH scored a victory in our Legislature yesterday. HB 170, a bill that extends unemployment benefits to part-time workers with child care limitations, passed our state senate. It had previously passed the NH House. The Governor will sign it.
This session we had two bills that addressed the part-time issue. One was a broader bill that would have covered all part-timers. The second bill (HB 170) was narrower but it had the support of our Employment Security as well as some business lobbyists.
The broader bill went down but it allowed us to look more reasonable with a bill that did not cover all part-timers and had a much lower price tag. HB 170 had some other housekeeping aspects and our Employment Security characterized the bill as a "housekeeping measure".
The NH Senate has a 16-8 Republican majority and has been very tough on many low income worker issues, including killing our fourth attempt in recent years to raise the state's minimum wage. However, this time, largely because of the lobbying efforts of the new Commissioner of Employment Security, we got a 15-9 favorable vote in the senate.
The bill requires workers with child care limitations to be available 20 hours a week in order to collect.