Jobless benefits bill passes Pa. House

The state House of Representatives unanimously approved compromise legislation Thursday that will continue federally-funded unemployment benefits for thousands of Pennsylvanians for another 13 weeks.

Without passage of the bill, benefits for 45,000 jobless residents will end this month. The measure is awaiting Senate passage and the signature of Gov. Tom Corbett.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-York/Cumberland, said some of the reform provisions from his House bill were added to the Senate version.

The reform measures include increasing the level of a credit week wage from $50 to $116, and requiring claimants to actively seek work.

Perry said the reforms are needed because Pennsylvania has borrowed nearly $4 billion from the federal government to fund the unemployment compensation system.

“This is only a step,” Perry said in a news release. “There is a lot of heavy-lifting remaining to head-off the continuing financial problems we have in the system. No matter how much some folks try to ignore it, the fact remains, there is an estimated $3.7 billion deficit as the result of borrowing from the federal government. Much more needs to be done.”

The bill also creates a severance pay offset; allowing a person to receive severance pay of up to $17,853 before their unemployment benefits are affected.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said the average annual savings to the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund from 2012-2018 will be $133 million, with the bulk of the savings in the last 4 years. He said the cumulative savings for 2011-2018 will be nearly $1 billion.

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