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Summer unemployment benefits no longer available to crossing guards

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 8:41 PM
Last updated 9:40 PM
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A change in the rules governing state unemployment benefits for seasonal workers is cutting into the income of some of Augusta’s lowest-paid public safety personnel.

Susan McCord
Government Reporter
Twitter: @reportr1
E-mail | 706-823-3215

School crossing guards, considered seasonal sheriff’s office employees, can no longer obtain the benefits during the summer months, officials said Tuesday.

“We hate it, because most of these folks who work as school crossing guards, they’re on fixed incomes,” sher­iff’s Capt. Scott Gay said. “They’re the most dedicated folks in the world.”

No one in city government recalled how long the practice had been commonplace.

City Administrator Fred Russell said he was surprised to learn that longtime city workers might rely on unemployment benefits for part of their regular salaries.

The city employs about 75 part-time workers as crossing guards, most at an annual salary of $7,386, according to personnel records.

Georgia Department of Labor spokesman Sam Hall said the change came about after public school employees and others complained about seasonal private school workers drawing unemployment when school was out.

While school bus drivers in other counties have protested the change, it won’t affect Richmond County bus drivers, veteran bus driver Sallie Thomas said.

Thomas and school system attorney Pete Fletcher said the drivers, like teachers, are paid 12 months of the year despite most having the summers off.

“We’ve always been told we’d be denied unemployment,” Thomas said.

Among those it will affect is school crossing guard Louvenia Gray, who has ensured children cross safely since 1970.

Gray started off at Joseph Lamar Elementary, then moved to John Milledge. Now she’s at Tutt Middle School.

Gray said the benefits weren’t available in 1970, but became so later.

“I did apply for it, but I was told I couldn’t receive it this year,” she said. “It helped a lot. Every little bit helps.”

Gray said she won’t stop doing the job she loves.

“I just said you do the best you can with what you have,” she said. “I love it and I’m going back.”

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rmwardsr 06/26/12 - 09:41 pm
What a shame that those who

What a shame that those who are the most comfortable make the rules that determine outcomes for the lowest paid workers. Fred Russell should be ashamed for making such a comment:"City Administrator Fred Russell said he was surprised to learn that longtime city workers might rely on unemployment benefits for part of their regular salaries."
Well HELLO, these people are not making over 100 thousand dollars every year, and Fred, while you are enjoying your morning coffee in the comfort of your office, these people are out, rain or shine, cold or hot, making sure the children of Richmond county get safely to school every morning. So get a little compassion, and give these people their just due. Unemployment could not amount to much for these people, so get a heart Fred. HEll, you make more in one month than these people make in one year.


HighSociety 06/26/12 - 09:42 pm
This is really sad. Most of

This is really sad. Most of these folks are over 60, and Im sure have paid their dues over time.

Riverman1 06/27/12 - 05:03 am
Sure everyone loves the

Sure everyone loves the crossing guards and knows they are low paid. But let's look at it like we do with people working other jobs. Why can't they look for work during the summer? Do teachers draw unemployment? Others on leaves of various kinds? A crossing guard appears to be a part-time position in any case.

Iwannakno 06/27/12 - 07:48 am

Well good luck getting them now. After this slap in the face your children will probably be on their own crossing the streets in a lot of places. I think the commissioners gas cards and cell phones would have covered paying them. Augusta politics at it's best and SNAFU!!

burninater 06/27/12 - 08:30 am
There are all sorts of people

There are all sorts of people looking for seasonal work -- high school dropouts, migrant laborers, parolees, just to name a few. Clearly free market solutions are ideal for jobs as unimportant as making sure kids don't get hit by cars.

belle 06/27/12 - 10:45 am
They get paid?

I always assumed crossing guards were volunteers. I admired them even more for that. But let's get real, they only work about 30 minutes two times a day. Surely they can find some type of employment to fill in between. Heck, Sconyer's waitresses only work 3 days a week. I can assure you they don't get unemployment the other 4 days. We all have to be creative in the present job market. Gone are the days when you could take a job and plan to retire from it.

Jeepster2001 06/27/12 - 12:00 pm
Time to Change It Back

One of the dumbest things I've heard of lately. Hey, Sam Hall -- they deserve unemployment during the summer months. My wife is a teacher, and I'm sure she never lodged a complaint. Therefore, I don't know who those that complained, could've possibly been. This needs to get fixed.

allhans 06/27/12 - 02:44 pm
With an annual salary of $

With an annual salary of $ 7,386 the unemployments benefits would be a minor amount...
only though if they were promised it.

IF - they knew ahead of time that this was seasonal.. then I give up.

Riverman1 06/27/12 - 02:32 pm
If you want to pay them more

If you want to pay them more we can have that discussion. However it's not like we have this free money to give them. It is state unemployment compensation with rules to go by. They are paid for 12 months a year as teachers are. That makes them ineligible.

raul 06/27/12 - 06:49 pm
@Riverman. I read that as

@Riverman. I read that as only the drivers are paid for 12 months. The crossing guards are determined to be seasonal. Therefore, their pay stops in the summer, and they had been receiving unemployment compensation during the summer months until the rules changes. If the job is seasonal you know that going in.

Riverman1 06/27/12 - 10:30 pm
Raul, look at this...

Raul, here is what I see in the article, "Thomas and school system attorney Pete Fletcher said the drivers, like teachers, are paid 12 months of the year despite most having the summers off."

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