Job­less ben­e­fit red ink

Spon­sor says work­ers, em­ploy­ers would split un­em­ploy­ment fixes.

Dayton Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By Laura A. Bischoff

Job­less ben­e­fits COLUM­BUS — may be cut and em­ployer in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums hiked un­der a new plan to shore up Ohio’s bro­ken un­em­ploy­ment com­pen­sa­tion fund.

State Rep. Kirk Schur­ing, R-Can­ton, said his bill would split the bur­den nearly evenly be­tween work­ers and em­ploy­ers. It would freeze the max­i­mum weekly ben­e­fit paid to work­ers at $443 for 10 years, change ben­e­fits paid for de­pen­dents, charge work­ers a 10 per­cent co-in­sur­ance fee and limit ben­e­fits to up to 24 to 26 weeks, de­pend­ing on the in­dus­try. Em­ploy­ers would pay taxes on the first $11,000 that work­ers make, up from the cur­rent $9,000.

“This is just to start but it’s a re­flec­tion of some of the sug­ges­tions that were made in our work­ing group,” Schur­ing said.

La­bor, busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers have been work­ing on a long-term fix for more than 10 months.

The goal is to im­prove the sol­vency of the Un­em­ploy­ment Com­pen­sa­tion In­sur­ance Fund, which re­ceives pre­mi­ums from em­ploy­ers and pays out ben­e­fits to laid off work­ers. Roughly 200,000 Ohio work­ers rely on un­em­ploy­ment checks over the course of a year.

The fund went broke in 2009 dur­ing the Great Re­ces­sion, forc­ing Ohio to bor­row $3.39 bil­lion from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment from 2009 to 2014. The loan cost the state $257.7 million in in­ter­est.

Zach Schiller of Pol­icy Mat­ters Ohio said Schur­ing’s pro­posal isn’t a true sol­vency plan, the num­bers need more anal­y­sis and some of the el­e­ments seem to cre­ate an ad­min­is­tra­tive bur­den for the state. While it’s an im­prove­ment over pre­vi­ous pro­pos­als, Schur­ing’s pro­posal doesn’t fix the un­der­ly­ing prob­lem that em­ployer taxes have been too low for most of the past two decades, he said.

“You have to look at the en­tire thing as a com­bi­na­tion of pro­pos­als,” Schiller said. “We don’t re­ally know that it’s a 50-50 split (be­tween work­ers and em­ploy­ers). I think we need more anal­y­sis on this.”

Schur­ing is also propos­ing that Ohio set up a bond fund for times when the in­sur­ance fund is drained. This would al­low the state to avoid bor­row­ing from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, he said. The bond would re­quire voter ap­proval.

If there are no changes, the fund is ex­pected to be in­sol­vent again by 2021 — pos­si­bly by 2020 if there is a mod­er­ate re­ces­sion, ac­cord­ing to the Leg­isla­tive Ser­vice Com­mis­sion. Con­tact this re­porter at 614224-1624 or email Laura. Bischoff@cox­inc.com.

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