A law recently passed in Florida makes those seeking unemployment benefits required to pass a test that measures their reading and math ability. In a state with a large latino population, where English may not be one's first language, requiring a reading test to collect unemployment benefits is oddly reminiscent of literacy tests. Requiring people to take a test to vote, and requiring people to take a test to receive unemployment benefits aren’t really so different when there are people who aren’t equipped with the skills to pass the tests.
Worse, the people who do not pass the test because of poor literacy skills receive no unemployment benefits, and are left with no options. The state does not offer options to help those who are not literate to learn better English, they simply write them off. While Florida claims that this prevents the state’s taxpayers from paying for burdensome benefits for people who will never be employable, it creates a large population of people living in poverty who will be facing homelessness and most likely be forced to participate in the informal economy to get by.
"Requiring jobless Floridians to take a skill assessment test is the right thing to do, not just for them, but also to ensure Florida’s tax dollars are spent on making sure our workforce is the most qualified in the nation."
Additionally, the test must be taken online. Many of the unemployed do not have access to a computer or internet. Additionally, those who are unemployed and also a minority statistically are less likely to have access to a friend or family member with a computer, but are more likely to take advantage of publicly accessible computers such as those in libraries. This policy is an infringement on civil rights because it targets a specific group of people, but does nothing to help them. Denying people access to benefits, without offering them any help, is unethical. Denying benefits that are guaranteed to every citizen unless they can pass a test (which they may be unable to do because of a failing of publicly funded school systems. Florida has the 45th lowest graduation rate, by the way.) is an infringement of civil rights.
Remember, if you live in Florida and you can’t find a job, you better be able to read and do simple math.