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House passes bill to limit unemployment benefits

The Missouri House of Representatives Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that will limit unemployment benefits to 13 weeks in times of good economic conditions.

By a margin of 112 to 47 the House passed House Bill 150, sponsored by Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob). It is designed to keep the state’s Unemployment Insurance fund solvent after many years of running in the red.

The bill creates a sliding scale of weeks of maximum eligibility that maxes out at 20 weeks in bad economic times, and is limited to 13 weeks in times when the state’s unemployment rate drops below 6 percent. The current unemployment rate in the state is now listed as 5.4 percent.

On the House floor during debate on the bill, Rep. Fitzpatrick pointed out that during the last five recessions, the state’s Unemployment Insurance fund became insolvent, and the state had to borrow money from the federal government to continue to cover the costs of the program. Each time, employers had to increase payments into the fund to reduce the debt to the federal government.

House Bill 150 also includes provisions that raise the amount the state would have to hold in the insurance fund, paid into by a per-employee tax on businesses. It also encourages the state to seek alternatives to borrowing from the federal government when the fund runs out of the money in the future.

The bill is identical to legislation that passed the General Assembly last year, but was vetoed by Governor Nixon. The 112 Representatives voting in favor of the bill is more than the votes needed to override a governor’s veto this year.

The bill now heads to the State Senate.

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