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 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.