It’s No Accident that Getting Government Help “is Like Trying to Break into a Bank”

Unemployed workers throughout the country have run into maddening obstacles to getting their unemployment benefits and in no place is it worse than in New York State. New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, acknowledged the problem a few days ago. He said, “We have government programs. Yeah, trying to access a government program is like trying to break into a bank sometimes. Right? It is not that easy.” And the explanation isn’t simply that state governments like the one Cuomo runs haven’t invested in upgrading the computer systems ordinary people use to apply for the benefits they have been promised.

The main reason accessing social programs “is not that easy” is that governments intentionally make it hard to apply and qualify for benefits in order to keep the amount they pay out as low as possible. But New York State treats businesses very differently than unemployed workers. New York’s state government runs a bank that gives loans and grants to new businesses in economically depressed parts of the state. Some of this bank’s money has gone to close friends of the governor and a lot of the money was given to shaky enterprises that went broke but nevertheless enriched the investors. The lesson: it’s not so hard to break into a bank if you’re a business owner, especially if you’re are a friend of the governor.

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