Sen. Charlie Bethel cut unemployment benefits while representing the nation’s most unemployed city

State Sen. Charlie Bethel, who represents Dalton, has a lot of explaining to do.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Dalton lost more jobs than any other metropolitan region in the country.

You would think Sen. Bethel would be working overtime to help the people who put him into office during this difficult time. But you’d be wrong.

Instead, he’s kicking them when they’re down.

Earlier this year Sen. Bethel spoke to the Georgia Senate with a heavy heart to support a bill he sponsored to roll back unemployment benefits. (If you’re keeping score at home, he co-sponsored SB 447, which was approved as HB 347).

Fighting back tears, Sen. Bethel retold his experience laying off workers for his employer when times became tough. He said that he personally stood in a room to tell employees they were being let go.

He admits, “It is the worst thing I have ever done.”

Apparently, though, it’s not so horrible that Sen. Bethel wasn’t willing to make being laid off even tougher.

Sen. Bethel, his fellow lawmakers and Gov. Deal, cut the payment of unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to as low as 14 weeks, the shortest in the nation. Even in the best cases, no Georgia worker will receive more than 20 weeks of unemployment benefits. Sen. Bethel co-sponsored a bill that would have reduced unemployment benefits to as low as 12 weeks.

Adding insult to injury, the first unemployment check is delayed by at least a week as the laid-off employee waits to pass a drug test.

Georgia has acted irresponsibly, cutting taxes while businesses experienced the most growth. The state has depleted its unemployment insurance trust fund in order to pay out benefits and become one of 20 states that is required to borrow funds from the federal government to keep the state fund solvent.

Georgia is one of 11 states that have cut jobless benefits in the past year by cutting back payouts or restricting eligibility.

In the middle of the worst economic crisis of a generation, Georgia Republicans chose to cut the very program designed to provide a safety net. These people, through their employers, paid into the state’s unemployment insurance program and have every right to expect the benefits.

Even Sen. Bethel admits the law is “placing a burden on those that have lost their job.”

“That is true,” he said.

Here’s what Better Georgia believes is true, too.

Leadership means knowing when to step back and when to step up to make sure the system works for people who work for a living.

Sen. Bethel stepped away from the problems of his community.

It’s time that government worked again for people who work hard and play by the rules.

Business and government both need to be held accountable for their actions. Sen. Bethel’s law puts the burden squarely on the shoulders of Georgia families.

Watch the unedited Sen. Bethel speech here: Sen. Charlie Bethel speech