Ar­kan­sas House OKs cuts to un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits

Texarkana Gazette - - METRO/STATE -

LIT­TLE ROCK—The Ar­kan­sas House has ap­proved cuts to the state’s un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits as part of leg­is­la­tion that also re­duces taxes on em­ploy­ers.

The House passed a bill Wed­nes­day that would re­duce the length of un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits from 20 weeks to 16 start­ing in 2018, cut­ting those ben­e­fits by 13 per­cent, the Ar­kan­sas Demo­crat-Gazette re­ported.

Democrats and union mem­bers op­pose the bill, say­ing it un­fairly tar­gets un­em­ployed work­ers. Demo­cratic House Mi­nor­ity Leader Michael John Gray said re­duc­ing ben­e­fits to 16 weeks is an un­nec­es­sary bur­den on work­ing Ar­kan­sas res­i­dents com­pared to sur­round­ing states.

The bill also pro­poses to re­duce the taxes that busi­nesses pay in the state’s un­em­ploy- ment fund.

Busi­nesses cur­rently pay taxes of up to $12,000 in each worker’s an­nual wage, which would be re­duced to $10,000 be­gin­ning in 2018.

The bill’s spon­sor, Repub­li­can Rep. Robin Lund­strum, said there isn’t a fis­cal need for more cuts to the length of ben­e­fits but that do­ing so would boost em­ploy­ment. She said the bill is in the process of be­ing amended to elim­i­nate the re­duc­tion in ben­e­fit amount.

“Every time you re­duce weeks, peo­ple go back to work,” she said.

In 2015, the Ar­kan­sas Leg­is­la­ture pre­vi­ously cut el­i­gi­ble ben­e­fits from 25 weeks.

Ac­cord­ing to Di­vi­sion of Work­force Ser­vices, the state’s un­em­ploy­ment rate in De­cem­ber was 3.9 per­cent.

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