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House passes unemployment compensation reform

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama House of Representative passed a bill Tuesday that makes changes to how long unemployment benefits are awarded in the state of Alabama.

Senate Bill 193 is sponsored by state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.

The bill was carried in the Alabama House of Representatives by state Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville.

Garrett said that the bill does three things. First, it would tie the length of unemployment to the actual unemployment rate.

When the unemployment rate is low the length of benefits would decrease to about 20 weeks. Currently, one can draw unemployment for 26 weeks in Alabama. Second, it raises the monthly payment $10 a week, and third, it gives unemployed persons five additional weeks if they enroll in an approved training program.

Garrett said that in the worst economic times you could draw unemployment for 25 weeks.

“It is not a living wage,” Garrett said. “We have the third lowest unemployment benefit in the country.”

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This raises it from $265 a week to $275.

State Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, said “73 people voted for this bill on the BIR so obviously they don’t know anything about what a family goes through. To the people who came down here and said this is a good bill, I say the Devil is a liar.”

State Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile, said, “I love recruiting jobs to Alabama but we need to make sure that we recruit employers that will pay a livable wage.”

State Rep. Christopher John England, D-Tuscaloosa, said, “Is there a worse place in the United States than Alabama to be poor?”

Moore said that the three counties with the highest unemployment are Wilcox, Clarke, and Dallas. The county with the lowest unemployment is Shelby at 2.7 percent. Moore asked why the Legislature can’t set this where it will vary with the unemployment in the county?

Garrett said that they had originally planned to do it that way, but the federal government said no.

Moore said that to help poor counties the state should build roads to connect them to the major interstates so that you could move product out of there.

Garrett said that states like Florida that have done this have seen people’s time on unemployment decrease. Eighty percent of the people on unemployment are off after nineteen weeks. Most people that collect unemployment would make more money with this bill.

SB193 passed the House. It now goes on to the governor.

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