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Man repays 1964 jobless benefits to state, plus

The state’s budget gap has narrowed by $10,000 thanks to a debt repaid by someone California did right by almost half a century ago.

Dennis FergusonDennis Ferguson, 74, of South Carolina, recently sent the state a check for $10,000 to pay back with interest the unemployment benefits he received for about four months in 1964, after he’d been laid off as an engineer at Douglas Aircraft in Los Angeles, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s office reports.

Ferguson’s benefits for the roughly 20-week period he received aid would have totaled about $1,100, according to information provided by the State Employment Development Department. Ferguson told Lockyer’s office he wanted to show his appreciation for the help he’d received by adding “interest,” and he figured $10,000 was a “nice round figure.” On the Nov. 23 check, Ferguson wrote, “REPAYMENT FOR WHAT CALIF. DID FOR ME!”

“Anyone who is helped out when they are down ought to give something back, especially now that California has budget problems,” Ferguson told Lockyer’s office.

Because the check didn’t designate a specific recipient, state law requires that it go to public schools.

“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 news release. “On behalf of Californians, I want to express our deepest appreciation to Mr. Ferguson. I hope that as we work together to meet our budget challenges, we keep in mind his act of generosity, and the spirit it embodies.”

In a note Ferguson sent to the State Treasurer’s Office along with the check, the retire wrote, “In 1964, the State of California allowed me to collect unemployment while I attended a storefront school to learn how to program a computer. This allowed me to have a great career and I’ve been ever thankful. Please find enclosed a check for $10,000 as a repayment. Happy Thanksgiving!”

And a very Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to you, too, Mr. Ferguson.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RF

    This guy is the man.

  • John W

    Now, will the state pass through the money to the employer whose money paid for the benefits? Guess not if Douglas Aircraft no longer exists. Otherwise, I’m sure the state would have done the right thing.