January 16, 2009

Bass, Steinberg Announce New Legislative Efforts to Aid Unemployed Californians

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) announced the fast-tracking of legislation that would make California eligible for up to $900 million in federal unemployment insurance incentives and would allow Californians to bring in more part-time income while they are receiving unemployment insurance benefits and looking for permanent full-time work.

“Today we heard the country has had the worst job losses since the end of World War Two,” Bass said. “The unemployment emergency is why we will be fast-tracking two measures to provide real economic stimulus and help unemployed Californians pay their rents and mortgages, feed their families, pay their bills and keep contributing to local economies.”

“The rising jobless rate shows that people in California and around the country are suffering and there’s no sign it’s getting better,” Steinberg said. “Unemployment insurance is part of government’s compact with its people that it will be there when people need it. We must do everything in our power to make sure the system survives and thrives for the people who use it now or may need it later.”

The first part of the legislation establishes an Alternative Base Period (ABP) system that allows workers who become unemployed to draw unemployment insurance benefits based on recent work experience. Currently the state does not count earnings for the past 4-6 months of employment when calculating benefits. In addition to benefiting tens of thousands of California workers, particularly in the construction, agricultural and tourism industries, creating the ABP would make California eligible to receive up to $900 million in federal funds as soon as the federal Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act is approved by Congress and the President. California already meets much of the criteria to receive those funds; establishing the ABP system for calculating benefits is the final piece needed.

The second part of the legislation addresses the unemployment emergency by raising the income disregard for unemployment benefits. Right now if you are unemployed and receiving benefits, you can only bring in another $25 per week if you are able to find some other source of income while you are looking for permanent, full-time work. The new legislation will raise that threshold to $200 per week. That means unemployed Californians who are looking for work and struggling to pay their bills and support their families on their UI benefits will be able to bring in additional money from part-time work they can find. This not only helps workers and their families, it helps their local economies – particularly in the most economically distressed areas of our state.

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