Iowa Senate committee advances unemployment insurance bill

The Iowa Senate’s Workforce Committee advanced a bill on February 28 that proposed reducing the maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit amount families with three or more dependent children could claim. Currently, Iowa considers the number of dependents an individual or family cares for in determining benefit amounts. This proposed change would create a formula with three dependent benefit levels that would cap the maximum amount at three children.

The bill also proposed waiving requirements for certain seasonal workers (such as some school bus drivers, for example, who may get laid off every summer and rehired every fall or construction workers) to search for employment every week to remain eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

The legislation contains another provision that would tie the number of work search activities an unemployed worker needs to perform per week to remain eligible for benefits to the number of job openings in his or her area. When a lot of jobs openings are available, workers would need to perform six work search activities per week. When few job openings are available, workers would need to perform four work searches per week under the bill. Currently, Iowa law only requires workers to perform four job searches each week, depending on prevailing economic conditions.

The bill is now eligible for debate on the full Senate floor.

Unemployment insurance is a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

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