State House Passes Unemployment Compensation Funding Bill

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

The House passed in a nearly unanimous (183-4) vote last week legislation that many lawmakers called a “necessary compromise” to help address the state Unemployment Compensation benefit system costs for operational and system upgrades.

House Bill 1915 was crafted with bipartisan support following the misappropriation of UC system funds over several years as it related to the Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund, which resulted in the governor’s furlough last year of UC center call workers while debate continued over the future funding of SIIF and the UC system generally.

The bill, which now awaits consideration in the Senate, would provide $115.2 million in additional funding to the UC benefits system over the next four years. It would transfer to SIIF $30 million in 2018, $25 million in 2019, $20 million in 2020 and $10 million in 2021; with additional monies being transferred from SIIF to the UC benefit modernization project through 2020.

The legislation also stipulates expected outcomes from the modernization project, which are all focused on eventually ending the Department of Labor and Industry’s reliance on SIIF dollars for the operations of the UC benefits system. It is noteworthy that many involved in the creation of SIIF contend it was never intended to be a permanent program, and was established to temporarily supplement federal funding through 2016 to upgrade technology infrastructure for the UC system.

While most House Democrats voted for H.B. 1915, the four members of that caucus who voted against the bill did so on the grounds that it didn’t provide enough money. According to a story in Capitolwire¸ Rep. Pete Schweyer, D-Lehigh, argued that the funding supplied by the bill wouldn’t be enough to reopen the UC call center in Allentown, which the governor closed last December.

House Bill 1915 heads to the state Senate for consideration.