Cuts to unemployment benefits pass in the House

A bill that would decrease the number of weeks laid-off employees could receive unemployment benefits passed in the House 62-26 on Wednesday.

Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs), lead sponsor of the bill, said, "Our employers have been overpaying now for years on their unemployment taxes, and this would give them a relief."

House Bill 1405 would decrease unemployment benefit coverage from 20 weeks to 16 weeks. It would also lower the state's taxable wage base from $12,000 to $10,000, which would reduce employers required contributions into the state's Unemployment Trust Fund.

House Minority Leader Michael John Gray (D-Augusta) spoke against the bill, saying it put an unnecessary burden on Arkansas's workers.

"Unemployment is for people who are working and who have lost their job, it is not a program for those who are able bodied but not seeking work ... . Think about someone who has lost their job in a rural area, who has to relocate their family to get a new job in the middle of the school year, that wants to work," he said.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

This reporting is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.

The Arkansas Nonprofit News Network is an independent, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans. Our work is re-published by partner newsrooms across the state.