State unemployment proposal has special construction category
Posted January 13, 2016 in Selected Press
COLUMBUS — Construction workers could be placed in a separate category of workers when it comes to receiving unemployment compensation benefits.
The possible separation is part of several changes proposed Tuesday to a controversial overhaul of the system.
State Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township) proposed a change that some construction workers could be eligible for up to 20 weeks of unemployment benefits while other workers could see their benefits capped between 12 to 20 weeks.
But it depends on the state unemployment rate.
The current unemployment rate is 26 weeks.
The special category would be a hybrid of systems used only in Colorado and Connecticut, Ms. Sears told the House Insurance Committee.
Construction employers would have the option of asking to be included in this classification.
They would pay an extra 1 percent in unemployment compensation tax for the privilege.
“We need to recognize the fact that Ohio does have longer winters than other states do,” Ms. Sears said. “It’s completely possible in the state of Ohio that we’ll have a very low period of unemployment while at the same time have a brutally long, cold winter.”
The provision was one of several changes Ms. Sears is proposing in anticipation of a committee vote on House Bill 394 in the next few weeks.
She also proposed eliminating a provision that would have denied benefits to people who receive Social Security disability benefits as well as reducing benefits for senior citizens to offset 50 percent of what they receive in Social Security income.
The changes do little to alleviate the issues raised by opponents of the reform bill.
Zach Schiller, researcher with the nonprofit legal research group Policy Matters Ohio, said the bill would still reduce jobless benefits by 41 percent, or $475 million a year.
“None of the elements in those analyses has changed, nor has the average $313 million annual tax cut for employers,” he said. “The bill relies entirely on jobless workers to improve the solvency of the system, now as before.”
By next year, Ohio is expected to have paid off the remaining $775 million of a $2 billion debt to the federal government that was accumulated during the last recession.
The federal government has been recovering its money by reducing tax credits to employers paying into the system while Ohio taxpayers have paid the interest on that debt.
House Bill 394 is designed to rework the fund so that the state will not have to borrow again when the next recession comes along.
The bill has support from business groups. But labor and advocates for poor Ohioans argue that the reforms lean too heavily on the benefits side while the fund has historically been underfunded by employers’ taxes.
The proposal would also make it tougher to qualify in the first place.
On the revenue side, the bill would temporarily increase the annual wage base that employers pay taxes into the system from $9,000 per employee to $11,000.
That would revert to the original level once the fund reaches what is considered a safe solvency level.
“We’re in a hole,” committee Chairman Bob Hackett (R., London) said. “We got to get this turned around before the economy changes.”
Original Article: http://www.toledoblade.com/State/2016/01/13/State-...