Senate Passes Unemployment Insurance Reform
SB 1569 ensures Texas will receive $556 million in unemployment stimulus funds
(Austin) — Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today praised the Texas Senate for passage of SB 1569, legislation by Senator Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) which will ensure Texas receives $556 million in federal unemployment aid under the economic stimulus plan.
Last month, Senator Ellis was the first co-sponsor of the Eltife legislation and has worked to build a bi-partisan consensus on the unemployment insurance plan.
"I am thrilled that the Texas Senate has stepped up to the plate to ensure Texas gets every penny offered in the economic stimulus plan," said Ellis. "This has been a unnecessarily difficult effort, so Senator Eltife deserves tremendous credit for reaching out and working with his colleagues to come up with a plan that will help thousands of Texas families weather this economic storm."
According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Texas economy will lose between 180,000 to 300,000 jobs in 2009, and the unemployment rate is expected to rise from 6 to 8.2 percent. Texas families are hurting and are worried about how they are going to keep their homes and pay their bills. The Economic Recovery Act offers $556 million to Texas to help those Texans who have lost their job or are in danger of soon losing it.
Under SB 1569, Texas will:
- join 21 other states – including New Mexico, Oklahoma, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia – in modernizing the way it calculates unemployment benefits, to institute an alternative base period to include an employee's most recent earnings in calculating benefits.
- Allows those seeking part-time work to be eligible for pro-rated benefits. When the economy bounces back, many of the new jobs may begin as part-time employment and eventually become full-time. Nearly half of the states currently award benefits to part-time workers.
- Adds a family-friendly provision to allow benefits for spouses who quit their jobs because their wife/husband is transferred to another part of the state. The Legislature already made this change for military spouses.
"Governor Perry's opposition to extra unemployment aid is the definition of penny-wise and pound-foolish. I doubt Texans think sending a half-billion of our tax dollars to other states while doing nothing to save the state's faltering unemployment trust fund is the best way to pull ourselves from this recession.
The legislation is vital because, without action, by September 2009 Texas' unemployment trust fund could be $749 million below the floor. Two things happen then: an automatic 'deficit tax' will be triggered on nearly all businesses to make up the shortfall; and, funding could end for important economic development programs.