Bill introduced to change unemployment benefits, absentee ballot bill held
By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
The House State Affairs Committee introduced a bill that would amend the way Idaho provides unemployment benefits, indexing it based on the state’s job availability.
Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot introduced the legislation Thursday. Currently Idaho provides up to 20 weeks of unemployment benefits, regardless of the unemployment rate. This bill would index the number of weeks a person could collect unemployment benefits based on job availability.
Young’s bill would cut benefits off at 12 weeks when the average unemployment rate is 5% or less. It increases to 13 weeks of benefits when the unemployment rate is more than 5% but less than 5.5% and 14 weeks of benefits when the unemployment rate is more than 5.5% but less than 6%.
The index continues to increase to up to 20 weeks. But, to collect up to 20 weeks of benefits, the state’s unemployment rate must be more than 8.5%.
The bill does not take into consideration whether an unemployed person is qualified to fill a vacant job opening.
In December, the Idaho Department of Labor reported that the state’s unemployment rate to be 2.9%. The U.S. Department of Labor considers a 5% unemployment rate to be “full employment.”
The bill’s fiscal note estimates that if the benefits are indexed, Idaho could save $252 million in its unemployment trust fund without raising taxes.
Young’s bill still must get a public hearing before the bill can move forward.
Also in the State Affairs Committee, a bill pitched last week by Rep. Joe Alfieri, R- Coeur d’Alene, came to a halt at his request.
Alfieri previously pitched a bill that would have significantly limited the use of absentee ballots, but on Thursday he asked that the committee hold the bill in committee because he had learned of legitimate concerns.