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Tying Jobless Benefits to the Unemployment Rate

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Sen. Kehoe presents SB 869.

Legislation to tie Missouri’s jobless benefits to the state unemployment rate continues to make progress at the Capitol.

House Bill 1409 was passed by the House Employment Security Committee on Jan. 23. On Feb. 5, it also passed the Rules Administrative Oversight Committee by a vote of 9-5. That bill is sponsored by Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Shell Knob.

In the Senate, Sen. Mike Kehoe, a Republican from Jefferson City, presented SB 869 to the Small Business and Industry Committee on Feb. 6. Similar to HB 1409, this bill provides more weeks of benefits during a recession and fewer weeks when jobs are plentiful.

Currently in Missouri, the unemployed can receive up to 20 weeks of benefits. This bill states if the unemployment rate is below six percent, benefits last 13 weeks. At nine percent or higher, benefits will last 20 weeks. Between that, every half-percent change in the rate would mean a week’s difference in benefits.

This legislation will help protect Missouri from the huge debts the state absorbed to be able to pay unemployment benefits during previous recessions. These debts ultimately came out of employers’ pockets–with interest.

“This last time that we had to borrow, we were several hundred million dollars in the hole and employers were assessed to pay that penalty in interest back, as first starting out at $21 per individual and ending up at $63 an individual,” said Kehoe.

The bill also raises the fund’s threshold before rate reductions are triggered.

“Our main goal here is the long-term solvency of the unemployment trust fund,” said Matt Panik,  vice president of governmental affairs at the Missouri Chamber. “That will mean we’ll be able to weather the future recession or downturn that we know will come inevitably–we just don’t know when that will be. But shoring up that trust fund long-term is a very worthy goal, so our workers can get the unemployment benefits they’re due when that does come up.”

For more information, contact Panik at mpanik@mochamber.com or 573.634.3511.

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