Senate OKs bill to cut weeks unemployed can get benefits

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ATLANTA — The Georgia Senate on Friday approved a plan that would reduce the number of weeks people could collect unemployment – a politically unpopular choice that supporters said was a tough but necessary decision.

The state labor department borrowed nearly $440 million from the federal government in recent years to cover unemployment benefits during the recession, and must now pay back more than $730 million.

At issue in the Senate was how to pay that debt and replenish the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. Lawmakers debated for nearly two hours, and were at times emotional about the real-life stakes in their vote.

“It is real,” said Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, who choked up as he recounted his own painful experience of having to watch his co-workers at a North Georgia carpet company lose their jobs in the down economy. “I have stood in front of a room of people that I love and told them, ‘You haven’t done anything wrong, but your job is gone.’ It is the worst thing I’ve ever done. This should hurt, but it is responsible.”

The bill passed by a 34-13 vote on partisan lines. While Democrats agreed some action is necessary to repay the debt, several blasted the plan as potentially unconstitutional and harmful to the unemployed.

“This is our message to the middle class in this state that is hanging on for dear life,” said Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta. “It puts all of us in a bad position to go back home to communities that have already been damaged.”

Sen. Fran Millar, the bill’s sponsor, said the proposal would repay that debt by 2014 and replenish the state’s unemployment trust fund by 2016 to $1.1 billion.

He argued the plan was painful but necessary, and shares the burden among businesses, the unemployed and the state.

“We have an obligation in the state to make sure we’re fiscally solvent,” Millar said. “It’s a step we have to take. It’s not popular. We’ve got to bite the bullet and we’ve got to do it now.”

Currently, employers are charged $21 per employee towards repaying the trust fund.

Next year, that amount would double, and it would double again two years later.

“If we have these kinds of surcharges on our employers, you can forget about job creation,” Millar said.

Effective July 1, unemployment benefits would be reduced from 26 weeks to a sliding scale of between 12 and 20 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate. And the unemployed would have to wait one week before their benefits kick in.

Several senators took questioned why the Labor Department did not act sooner to address the looming problem.

“I was hopeful that the Labor Department was going to come up with a plan,” Millar said. “Are we having to intervene because I don’t think they did their job well? That pretty well cuts to the chase.”

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said after the vote that the department has been working closely with House and Senate leadership to address the issue and dismissed accusations that they have not been involved in the process.

“We were the ones that brought light to this in the first place,” Butler said. “We don’t have the authority to make a lot of changes.”

Butler said the Senate proposal is “a start,” and that he hopes the debt can be paid off in no more than three years to avoid additional penalties for Georgia businesses.

Democrats also questioned whether the Senate could initiate such a proposal, which they said should start in the House because of its fiscal implications. A provision in the bill would repeal it if it is later found unconstitutional.

The bill now heads to the House.

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specsta
7229
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specsta 02/25/12 - 01:30 am
2
2
Disgusting. The GA Senate

Disgusting. The GA Senate sure knows how to kick a person when they're already down...

david jennings
625
Points
david jennings 02/25/12 - 07:04 am
2
1
Yea and I see it as just the

Yea and I see it as just the opposite specsta, I know too many that have rode the train for two years and laughed all the way to the bank.

d1zmljqg
998
Points
d1zmljqg 02/25/12 - 08:04 am
1
1
david jennings "I know too

david jennings "I know too many that have rode the train for two years and laughed all the way to the bank."

I suppose "many" in your context could many dozens. How about naming just a half dozen. First and last names please.

bushwhacker
39
Points
bushwhacker 02/25/12 - 08:35 am
2
1
good job governor!

good job governor!

allhans
24988
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allhans 02/25/12 - 08:35 am
1
0
Quoting a well-known

Quoting a well-known governor, we could let our actions speak for us and simply write them a check.

JRC2024
10613
Points
JRC2024 02/25/12 - 09:05 am
1
1
Dizm, Here are the initials

Dizm, Here are the initials of 9 that I know on the gove dole. The first has never had a job in her life that was a W@ or 1099 and has collected SSI. Now she and her husban fish all day every day on our dime. The government must start to weed these types of people out. BR, FR, CM, JR, HM,SM,DM, JM, AJ. All the ones ending in M are brothers and sisters who play the system. If I put the full names I would probably be deleted or offend someone who wears their feeling on their shoulders.

david jennings
625
Points
david jennings 02/25/12 - 09:31 am
1
0
Yes I won't name them, but I

Yes I won't name them, but I sure can. Some are friends, some are kin. I was on UE in 2010 but I didn't stay as long as some. I just know abuse is common. I have recently discovered how medicare is being abused, and not by recipients. Companies making cold calls (telemarketing) and telling people "there is no cost to you". Then start sending monthly deliveries of diabetic supplies etc. These supplies are not free, someone is paying, the tax payers are. I don't know how many claims these companies set up each week but I have been told it is growing problem and the Insp. Gen. Office in Atlanta is aware. Helping those who are truly needy is great, but I wish it were some way to weed out the abuse in all these great social programs.

d1zmljqg
998
Points
d1zmljqg 02/25/12 - 10:37 am
1
0
Well, I can't explore

Well, I can't explore initials. IMO the source of these problems is lack of education including in-home and family education. Some of the people on the dole are too stupid to even realize that the dole should not be a lifelong source of income. Then there are some who are outsmarting the system.

It seems like when I was growing up in rural South Georgia a welfare case worker after hearing the laments of an individual would say, "I'm going to put you on welfare." The(ignorant) lamenter had no idea what in the *ell she (ignorant) was talking about.

I can just hear the lamenter getting home telling his wife, mama or whoever, "Well, I got on welfare." And they would reply, "Well, that's good, how much are you gitting?" The word gets around and so other mostly ignorant people get aboard.

Unfortunately, we don't have the most sharpest people as the case workers, which eventually get enmeshed in Welfare bureaucracy.

Then prior to elections we start hearing "Welfare Reform," "Election Reform," "Social Security Reform," "Tax reform," "Education Reform," etc., all from the mouths of politicians who are really out to get elected by any means to pursue their own ambitions.

JRC2024
10613
Points
JRC2024 02/27/12 - 09:42 am
0
0
dizm, I can agree thaT MOST

dizm, I can agree thaT MOST ON WELFARE ARE NOT THE BRIGHTEST.

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