For Immediate Release
(HARRISBURG) – – Legislation to strengthen and modernize the way Unemployment Compensation claims are processed in Pennsylvania is headed to Governor Tom Corbett for his signature following unanimous passage in the state Senate today. Senator John R. Gordner (R-27) said passage of House Bill 26 was a six month effort by the four chairs of the Senate and House Labor and Industry Committees, along with Labor and Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway, to improve the claims system following processing delays in 2012.
Senator Gordner praised House Labor and Industry Committee Chairs Mario Scavello (R-176) and William Keller (D-184), Senate Democratic Chair Tina Tartaglione (D-2) and Secretary Hearthway for the bipartisan effort that led to unanimous passage of Rep. Keller’s legislation in both the House and the Senate.
“Since we held a joint committee public hearing in January to identify the problem issues, the Committees and the Administration have worked diligently and cooperatively to fix the claim system so that those who have earned these important benefits can access them in a timely manner, “ said Senator Gordner. “Coupled with federal funding cuts, the system needed additional support that will be provided by the funding mechanism in House Bill 26.”
House Bill 26 re-directs a portion of the Unemployment Compensation Employee Tax, currently at .007% of each employee’s salary, to the newly created Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund, a restricted account that may only be used increase the quality, efficiency and timeliness of the Unemployment Compensation Service Centers. Funding is dedicated over five years at a cost of approximately $30 to $50 million per year, and any funds unspent after 2018 will be returned to the Unemployment Compensation Fund. Funds may be used for technology improvements and to fund positions within the Department that are scheduled to be eliminated due to the loss of federal funding. Since the funds are re-directed from a current tax, there is no tax increase.
“During the last session, our Committees worked on comprehensive reform to the Unemployment Compensation system to ensure its long-term solvency,” said Senator Gordner. “I am pleased we were able to continue those efforts to ensure the infrastructure and personnel that support the system work as reliably and efficiently as possible.”
Todd B. Roup