FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2009
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez, Press Secretary
Phone: (512) 463-0385
Sen. Lucio Joins Colleagues in Urging State Leaders to Accept Stimulus Funds
Austin, TX — At a joint press conference with fellow legislators today, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. urged the state leadership to accept all available federal stimulus funds and declared the debate about the money over.
"The answer is yes," he said. "Yes, the state has the responsibility to do the best it can, when it can, to get Texans through this economic crisis."
The legislators presented a legislative package aimed at reforming the state's unemployment insurance (UI).
"The federal government is offering to pay us to modernize our unemployment system, which, unfortunately, is ranked as one of the worst in the country," explained the Senator. "Fixing our unemployment insurance system would help fix our economy. Unemployment compensation provides critical help to Texans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own."
Unemployment insurance is one of the most effective tools the state has to stimulate the economy. People receiving unemployment compensation spend money locally at mom-and-pop stores, keeping money flowing in the local economy. To receive the $555 million in stimulus dollars earmarked for unemployment, Texas will need to invest an estimated $80 million in fixing its unemployment system. But it would save Texas employers hundreds of millions in unemployment taxes in 2010, while helping almost 45,000 jobless Texans.
In his Senatorial District 27, unemployment has climbed from 17 percent in some places to 42 percent in others. The stimulus money would have a predicted annual economic impact of $7 to $8 million dollars on Sen. Lucio's District, which comprises Cameron, Hidalgo (part), Kenedy, Kleberg and Willacy counties.
Sen. Lucio also has co-authored legislation such as Senate Bill 377 with Senator Leticia Van de Putte to modernize Texas' unemployment compensation further. The bill would extend benefits to part-time workers; presently only full-time employees seeking full-time work can apply for unemployment benefits. Nearly half the states offer UI benefits to part-time employees.
Senate Bill 573 by Sen. Lucio would expand the number of unemployed people who receive compensation by allowing more current wage data when calculating benefit eligibility. This simple policy change qualifies Texas to receive $555.7 million in federal stimulus money.
"An effective unemployment insurance system helps all Texans. Rejecting the stimulus money will burden businesses with millions of dollars in extra taxes and bond debt over the next five to 10 years," concluded Sen. Lucio. "This federal stimulus money is a lifeline for individual Texans, and it is a safety net for our business communities. We must act now!"