Attacks against Iowa unemployment benefits push ahead

Despite almost 50,000 continuing unemployment claims in Iowa, legislation to alter and reduce unemployment insurance pushes forward, with those thousands of Iowans set to suffer as a result.

SSB 1172 requires a one-week waiting period before someone who is unemployed can receive benefits, it lowers the amount paid to people with multiple dependents and it lowers the number of weeks a person can collect unemployment if an employer goes out of business or if a plant closes.

HSB203 has the same language.

Both pieces of legislation have passed out of committee as of late February. Similar legislation has been proposed in the past, but it’s never passed committee.

Charlie Wishman, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, said it’s strange that this bill is moving now because there’s no reason to curb unemployment benefits since the unemployment fund isn’t running out of money.

“The purpose of our unemployment system is to make sure that businesses and workers can survive through an economic crisis,” he said. “And right now we have this dual issue, we have a public health crisis going on but we also have a recession going on.”

Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt, a Democrat representing District 33, went deeper on why this bill isn’t necessary.

To operate, businesses pay into the trust fund, and the amount is based on how much is in the unemployment trust fund. But, Gov. Kim Reynolds moved $490 million CARES Act money into the unemployment trust fund to stabilize it.

This means businesses haven’t had to pay as much. And yet, the unemployed will ultimately receive less money, and receive it for a shorter period of time.

“They’re trying to make some changes on the backs of unemployed folks in Iowa and that’s one of the reasons why I find this a very immoral, poorly timed, bad piece of legislation,” Running-Marquardt said.

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