(The Center Square) – Iowans would collect 16, not 26, weeks of unemployment benefits in most circumstances under a bill the Iowa Legislature passed Wednesday.
Individuals laid off due to business closure when Iowa’s “off” indicator is in effect would receive 26 instead of 39 weeks of benefits.
The bill, HF 2355, also lowers the threshold of pay for jobs unemployed workers must accept. Unemployed workers would need to accept work if the job pays at least what they had made in the highest-paying quarter of the base period: 100 percent in the first week (instead of first five weeks) of unemployment, 90 percent in the second or third week of unemployment (instead of 75 percent for the sixth through 12th week of unemployment); 80 percent in the fourth or fifth week of unemployment (instead of 70 percent in the 13th through 18th week of unemployment); 70 percent in the sixth through eighth week of unemployment (instead of 65 percent after the 18th week of unemployment).
The bill also would forbid employer participation in the shared work unemployment compensation program if the reduction in work hours for employees was not based on a work week of more than 40 hours. Approval of shared work plans would be revoked if the employer participating in the shared work unemployment compensation program lays off any employee, regardless of whether the employee is within an affected unit. Part-time employees would be eligible for shared work unemployment compensation program benefits if they meet all other state requirements.
The Iowa Senate has passed the bill with one amendment, which the Iowa House will have to pass to advance the bill to the desk of Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. The Senate’s amendment would require unemployed workers to wait a week to receive benefits. During that week they must be eligible for benefits and not have received or have payable benefits from Iowa or be eligible for benefits from another state.
Sen. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant, one of two Republicans who did not vote for the Senate version of the bill (SF 2131), told The Center Square in a texted statement Thursday that he opposes the loss of the one week of benefits. He said he supports the House bill, however.
“[I] am fully for fiscal responsibility, but I won’t take food off the family table of nurses, carpenters, or front-line workers who find themselves laid off through no fault of their own,” he said. “Let’s incentivize these folks to get on their feet quickly and back into the work force.”
Iowans for Tax Relief lobbied in support of both bills.
Vice President Chris Hagenow told The Center Square in an emailed statement Thursday that the changes will make the state’s unemployment benefits much better reflect the state’s economy and help people get back to work quickly.
Iowa Catholic Conference Executive Director Tom Chapman told The Center Square in an emailed statement Thursday that the group believes Iowa should be very cautious about cutting unemployment insurance in ways that could hurt vulnerable families.
Iowa Workforce Development asked the Legislative Services Agency in a November 2021 letter to change Voluntary Shared Work eligibility and codify waiving charges when a benefit allowance decision is reversed at the lower level appeal and employers failed to participate in the fact-finding interview through no fault of their own.