Latunga Childers lost her $8-an-hour job as a McDonald's manager in April. Soon after, she opened an envelope from Alabama unemployment officials expecting to find a check.
Instead, there was a letter declaring her ineligible for benefits. Behind that letter was a complicated fight over the federal stimulus and the strings that come with it.
Alabama stood to receive $100 million in federal stimulus money this spring for benefits to people who lose low-wage jobs, as well as part-timers and seasonal workers. In all, the stimulus provided $7 billion for such workers, an estimated 650,000 people nationally, who typically didn't qualify for any benefits.
But the federal money came with strings attached, and Alabama -- along with Mississippi -- balked. To collect, most states needed to pass new laws governing the distribution of benefits and make other adjustments. Those laws can be repealed later, but that process is often harder than passing new laws in the first place.
( Read moreCollapse )