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March 25. 2014 7:16PM

Proposed bill would increase unemployment benefits for some middle-income wage earners

CONCORD — Middle-income earners who are laid off will receive a little more money under a bill the House approved Tuesday.

House Bill 1499 would increase the maximum weekly benefit for unemployed workers who earned between $28,500 and $40,500.

Department of Employment Services Commissioner George Copadis said earlier if the bill is approved, it will be the first increase in unemployment benefits in 12 years.

“Today with broad bipartisan support the New Hampshire House took a very important step to help those New Hampshire workers who find themselves in the very unfortunate situation of being unemployed,” said House Labor Commission Chair Rep. Andy White, D-Lebanon. “This benefit will help those who have lost their jobs (with) a little extra boost, one that will help them meet their most basic needs, and provide a few extra dollars to aid in their search for a new job.”

Under the bill, the weekly increase would range from $3 to $25 a week. Those on the low end would see a $3 increase to $35 a week, while the greatest increase would be for workers earning $28,500 who would receive a $25 bump to $315 a week under the plan.

From that point, as the salary scale goes up to the $40,500 ceiling, the amount of additional money decreases from $25 to $3.

The total cost to the unemployment trust fund would be $4.8 million.

Businesses pay into the trust fund, which at the depth of the recent recession ran out of money and the state had to borrow from the federal government to pay benefits.

Two emergency surcharges were imposed on employers and the trust fund rebounded to about $240 million.

Those two 0.5 percent surcharges were rescinded in the fourth quarters of 2012 and 2013.

The trust fund has triggers that also reduce employer payments by 0.5 percent when it holds $250 million for every day in the quarter and businesses are expected to see two 0.5 percent rate reductions in the coming year.

Combined with the elimination of the two surcharges, state labor officials say businesses will save about $106 million through 2016.

The bill also creates a study commission to review the rate reduction triggers and the elimination of the week-long waiting period before laid off workers begin collecting their benefits.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

grayno@unionleader.com


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