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Archive for Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Deal forged to extend state’s jobless benefits

April 1, 2003

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— Kansans who are unemployed for more than nine months could receive two additional weeks of benefits in the next fiscal year under a deal struck by legislative negotiators Monday.

The compromise bill also provides that the state would permanently stop reducing recipients' unemployment benefits by 50 percent of any Social Security payments or railroad pensions they received.

Legislative staff have estimated that the extended benefits in the fiscal year that starts July 1 would cost $9 million, to be covered by Kansas' $78 million share of a federal appropriation made last year for states' unemployment programs.

Eliminating the reduction of jobless benefits for Social Security and railroad pension recipients would cost the state an estimated $1.2 million annually.

The compromise was reached by members of a House-Senate conference committee working out their chambers' differences concerning unemployment pay. The Senate had approved both provisions contained in the compromise, while the House had approved only the section on Social Security and pensions.

About 17,000 Kansans would benefit from the two-week extension of state aid to people who had exhausted their 26 weeks of state benefits and 13 weeks of federal unemployment assistance.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius had taken a different approach, proposing to spend $14 million to eliminate the current one-week wait for unemployed Kansans to begin receiving their benefits. About 51,000 Kansans would have been affected by that change.

But some Senate Republicans argued people who have been unemployed for months are under more financial stress. Sebelius ultimately agreed to support the two-week extension of benefits.

"To do the two additional weeks at the end is a compassionate response to people who need it the most," Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, said Monday.

The House and Senate are both expected to vote on the compromise bill this week.

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