Galloway: new Unemployment Compensation rules will restore up to 44,000 workers to the program at no additional cost

HARRISBURG, Oct. 26 – State Rep. John Galloway, D-Bucks, Democratic chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee, announced that the legislature today finalized an important update to the state's Unemployment Compensation program.

The bill, if signed by the governor, will restore benefits for cyclical workers who currently make too much money during their busy season to qualify for benefits in the down times. When Act 60 of 2012 was passed to help stabilize the UC Trust Fund, part of that change required an employee to earn at least 49.5 percent of his annual earnings outside his highest earning quarter.

"This bill removes that stipulation which unfairly hurts workers who made too much money in their busiest season," Galloway said. "Act 60's changes led to the unintended consequence of making these workers ineligible for the compensation they would otherwise be entitled to receive. Construction workers often fell into this trap. This bill drops the earnings requirement back to its pre-Act 60 limit, 37 percent outside the highest earning quarter. This will be a crucial change for these workers and other changes incorporated in the bill mean it will pay for itself and not affect the solvency of the fund."

House Bill 319, which was amended in the Senate on Tuesday, received final Senate passage this evening and the House then moved to concur with the Senate changes.

In addition to restoring the program eligibility to approximately 44,000 cyclical workers, their inclusion in the program will add $44 million annually from UC taxes collected from their employers. Furthermore, the bill includes a provision that requires employers that over-utilize the fund, to contribute more to the fund. This change will generate approximately $15.84 million.

The bill also responsibly limits benefit growth if the fund does not hit targeted goals for solvency and includes a 4 percent annual benefit growth limit which takes effect in 2024.

"This bill also incorporates a three-month amnesty program for both employers and claimants," Galloway added.

The bill awaits the governor's signature.