Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jobless Benefits "Reform" on Hold

A measure cutting unemployment compensation costs in Pennsylvania by 630 million dollars a year is stalled in the House. That could open the door for a more limited bill that unanimously passed the Senate this week.
Republican John Gordner said his bill would save about 60 million dollars a year – less than a tenth of what the House legislation, sponsored by Republican Scott Perry, would eliminate. Gordner said his measure is “more modest,” but pointed out it would also require people to actively look for jobs, while they’re receiving state aid. “It would use the existing CareerLink system that’s in place around the state,” he explained. “ Require folks that are receiving unemployment comp benefits to participate in the CareerLink system, and take advantage of the services they have.”
Lawmakers need to pass a bill changing unemployment compensation by June 11, or federal benefits will end, and 45,000 people will stop receiving checks. Pennsylvania’s unemployment fund has been empty for more than two years, and the state has borrowed nearly $4 billion from the federal government.

House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said GOP leaders don’t view this week’s failed vote as an indication a sweeping benefits reform wouldn’t have the support to become law. He said the Senate measure is “probably going to go to the Labor Committee, the Labor and Industry Committee, and get looked at and vetted. Whichever bill comes out of the House is going to be passed with the collective wisdom of the House of Representatives.”

Unlike Perry’s measure, Gordner’s bill would create a “work share” program, which would let companies relegate employees to part-time, instead of laying them off. The workers would then be able to receive limited state benefits, to supplement their reduced income.