Senate Labor and Industry Committee Examines Unemployment Compensation Changes

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The Senate Labor and Industry Committee held a public hearing to examine recent changes to unemployment compensation eligibility and potential negative impacts to seasonal workers. The meeting was convened at the request of Senator Sean Wiley (D-49) who has long-advocated a forum for legislators to hear directly from the greater Erie community.

Under Act 60 of 2012, the General Assembly took measures to reduce a $4 billion debt to the federal government and address the long-term solvency of the unemployment compensation system. One significant adjustment modified how eligibility is calculated resulting in a disqualification for workers who earn 50.5 percent or more of their annual income in one quarter, where the previous threshold was 63 percent.

“I understand the intent of Act 60, but unfortunately, workers in the greater Erie community who are at the mercy of the weather to do their jobs are disproportionately affected,” said Wiley.

Committee Chair Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) offered, “For some time now, reports have been coming in indicating that the latest round of reforms to the unemployment compensation law are adversely affecting seasonal workers. “The hearing offered some valuable information to help us determine the extent of the problem and the practicality and cost of potential remedies.”

“The unintended consequences of the changes made through Act 60, the disproportionate number of seasonal workers, and those who respond to emergencies – like Hurricane Sandy – require us to revisit these changes,” said Democratic Committee Chair Senator Christine M. Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia). “Unemployment benefits are a vital financial safety net for men and women who have lost their jobs. Making sure they don’t suffer further is why we have been working hard to rectify this issue.”

Wiley also offered, “I commend Senator Baker for her leadership on this matter and willingness to hear from those in this community who are impacted. I hope that the testimony provided before the committee here today will be helpful in developing a potential remedy.”

Those providing testimony included representatives from the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, National Federation of Independent Business, thePennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council, Laborers’ International Union of North America, the American Council of Engineering Companies, Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, as well as local businesses and employees.

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