Washington state senator collected unemployment on the job

| 9/30/2002

Washington state Senator Joe Zarelli collected unemployment checks for months while drawing his legislative salary and expenses, according to published reports. The state now is demanding he return the jobless pay.

Zarelli, a seven-year veteran of the Legislature and vice chairman of the Senate Republican caucus, is a congressional candidate in Southwestern Washington's 3rd District. Zarelli, who was paid $32,801 in the past year as a legislator, hasn't said how much he collected in unemployment benefits or how much he plans to pay back.

He did say, however, he received benefits for 10 months after he was laid off from his full-time job as a regional manager for Oakland, CA-based Ipsa International and that the Department of Employment Security knew he was serving as a legislator during that time. He entered the congressional race in May while receiving unemployment.

In addition to his salary, Zarelli receives $82 a day for expenses when the Legislature is in session or for committee work, plus office and telephone allowances, health care coverage and pension contributions.

Zarelli reportedly did not list the unemployment checks on his annual personal financial affairs statement for last year.

He said he hopes voters will be understanding, acknowledging the pain of being thrown out of work and trying to pay family bills. A legislator's pay is inadequate to support a family, he said.