Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Rotten news

I haven't felt like updating the blog recently. Alana got some rotten news from the Dysfunctional State of Louisiana. Due to Katrina wrecking the Gulf coast, tax revenue has dropped and Medicaid claims are up. The state is now facing a budget shortfall of $1 billion. To alleviate some of this shortfall, they are looking at laying off state employees or drastically cutting their wages.

The state can cut wages by up to 16 hours per 80 hour bi-week, for up to 12 months in order to forgo layoffs. They are asking to have these rules changed so they can cut up to 40 hours per bi-week and extend it beyond 12 months. It's unclear if the affected workers would work half days or work one week on, one week off. Either way, Alana is — unfortunately — a state employee.

This is supposed to affect certain areas more than others. Technically her region should be okay, as it's one of the few where people are swamped with work. Everyone in her office is stressed out due to the amount of work they've had to do processing Medicaid claims. The problem is that the state has an assinine policy where someone who lost their job can bump someone in a different job of the same level. This means that Alana, who volunteers for a lot of extra work and who knows her job quite well, can get bumped by someone of the same level in a totally unrelated job in a different parish simply because they've worked at the state for longer, even if that person is virtually incompetent.

Even if she doesn't lose her job, there's a good chance she will have her hours cut, perhaps drastically. At the very least we'd lose our health insurance... assuming they let us drop it. It's entirely possible that losing 50% of her hours will not be a "qualifying event" that would allow her to change her enrollment outside of the open enrollment period.

Alana's been working a lot of hours, some of which she might not get paid for. We hoped to get away next month for a short vacation, but that idea's shot. We've put a moratorium on buying Christmas and birthday presents. Alana has 3 weeks vacation built up, which she could use if she was laid off. I'll have 2 weeks built up once I get back from next week's training in Michigan. I'm going to see what happens if I don't take it (whether I will lose it or if the company will pay it out). This will give us a short reprieve if the worst happens.

The state will know early next month if they can cut hours, etc. That doesn't mean we'll know anything next month. The threat of being cut or bumped will continue to hang over us for at least the next year, though presumably the worst will be over by the new year. Maybe. In the meantime all we can do is curse incompetent state and federal politicians for cutting budgets and driving up deficits to the point where they can't cope with any serious adversity.

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