December 17, 2010 / 2:50 PM / 8 years ago

Retiree pays back California, with interest, for jobless aid

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - A South Carolina retiree has sent the cash-strapped state of California a $10,000 check as a token of appreciation for the unemployment benefits he received while living there nearly five decades ago.

Receipt of the check from Dennis Ferguson, 74, bearing his notation “REPAYMENT FOR WHAT CALIF. DID FOR ME!”, was announced on Thursday by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who said the money would go to public schools as required by California law.

“It’s appropriate this money will go to educate our kids, because there’s a lesson to be learned here about what it means to have a sense of shared sacrifice and commitment to the common good,” Lockyer said in a statement.

Ferguson said he collected jobless benefits for about four months in 1964 after being laid off at age 26 from his job as an engineer at aerospace company Douglas Aircraft, according to the treasurer’s office.

His benefits during that period would have totaled about $1,100, it said.

Ferguson told the state in a note accompanying his check that he wanted to show his gratitude for the benefits by adding “interest” to his repayment, deciding that $10,000 was a “nice round figure,” the treasurer’s office said.

Ferguson said the assistance helped him go back to school, where he earned a certificate in computer programing that helped him start a new career and get back on his feet.

“Anyone who is helped out when they are down ought to give something back, especially now that California has budget problems,” said Ferguson, who now lives in South Carolina.

His check is a drop in a bucket compared with a state budget deficit expected to top $25 billion by the next fiscal year that starts in July, but state officials were nevertheless grateful for his gesture.

“It’s very rare for folks to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to help the state of California out, and give them some of my money,’” said Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for the treasurer’s office.

Editing by Greg McCune

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